Have you ever come across a child, whose behaviour jus seems impossible to control? A child who goes around hitting other children (sometimes even their parents), throwing stones at animals on the street, intentionally destroying things that belong to them or others, bullying younger children? Well, I know that often your first reaction is just to go and give those children a tight slap. However, before you do so, consider this - the child might actually be suffering from Conduct Disorder.

Conduct Disorder refers to behavioural and emotional problem faced by children, where them may exhibit some of the following:

Aggression toward people and animals, manifested through the following:

  • bullies, threatens or intimidates others
  • often initiates physical fights
  • has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (e.g. a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife or gun)
  • is physically cruel to people or animals
  • steals from a victim while confronting them (e.g. assault)
  • forces someone into sexual activity

Destruction of property, which may be manifested through the following:

  • deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention to cause damage
  • deliberately destroys other's property's

Deceitfulness, lying or stealing, which may be manifested through the following:

  • has broken into someone else's building, house, or car
  • lies to obtain goods, or favors or to avoid obligations
  • steals items without confronting a victim (e.g. shoplifting, but without breaking and entering)

Serious violations of rules, which may be manifested through the following:

  • often stays out at night despite parental objections
  • runs away from home
  • often truant from school

Children who exhibit these behaviors should receive a comprehensive evaluation. Many children with a conduct disorder may have coexisting conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, ADHD, learning problems, or thought disorders which can also be treated. Research shows that youngsters with conduct disorder are likely to have ongoing problems if they and their families do not receive early and comprehensive treatment. Without treatment, many youngsters with conduct disorder are unable to adapt to the demands of adulthood and continue to have problems with relationships and holding a job. They often break laws or behave in an antisocial manner.

Treatment of children with conduct disorder can be complex and challenging. Treatment can be provided in a variety of different settings depending on the severity of the behaviors. Adding to the challenge of treatment are the child's uncooperative attitude, fear and distrust of adults. In developing a comprehensive treatment plan, a child and adolescent psychiatrist may use information from the child, family, teachers, and other medical specialties to understand the causes of the disorder.

Behavior therapy and psychotherapy are usually necessary to help the child appropriately express and control anger.


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