What is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder is characterized by a pattern of disregard for the rights and wellbeing of others or their property, or a disregard for generally-accepted rules of society. It may have an early onset (before age 10) or start during adolescence. After the age of 18, the disorder may become categorized as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Behaviour of individuals with Conduct Disorder may include:

Aggression to people or animals may involve things like: bullying, intimidation, threats, physical fights, using a weapon, harming animals or people, sexual assault, or stealing from someone using force such as mugging

Destruction of property may involve things like:

setting fires, or destruction using other means

Deceitfulness or theft may include things like:

breaking into houses, buildings, or cars, lying to obtain things or get out of duties, conning others, stealing things without violence such as shoplifting

Serious rule violations such as:

staying out overnight when not allowed to (before the age of 13), running away from home on multiple occasions, being truant from school (before age 13)

In some cases, individuals may also display a lack of prosocial emotions, such as lack of guilt or remorse, lack of empathy, lack of caring about “doing well” in life, or an overall lack of emotions (coming across as shallow, insincere, or superficial).

What causes Conduct Disorder?

While identifying an exact cause can be difficult, environmental risk factors can include things such as parental rejection, abuse or neglect, lack of supervision, harsh discipline, peer rejection, living in a neighbourhood where you are exposed to violence, associating with peers who engage in similar behaviours, parental criminality, or early institutional living. Genetics and temperament may also play a role in the development of conduct disorder.

Can therapy treat Conduct Disorder?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone wants to learn how to turn their behaviour around, skills can be taught in therapy, such as frustration tolerance, non-violent communication, problem-solving, etc. Ways to cope with systemic barriers to change can also be discussed, to optimize chances for success in a harsh environment.

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