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Conduct Disorder: Basic Facts That Parents Should Know

Conduct Disorder: Basic Facts That Parents Should Know


Is your child having difficulty obeying rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way, to the point that he or she is described as unruly or delinquent? These behaviors should not be taken lightly because they could be manifestations of conduct disorder or CD.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Conduct disorder refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems in youngsters.” Young people who are gripped by the condition are often perceived as “disobedient” or “disruptive” rather than emotionally unwell.

The symptoms of the condition can become intense and pervasive. They can impact many aspects of their lives, including their “social, academic, and family functioning,” says Mental Health America. Without proper treatment, conduct disorder can develop into other emotional conditions.  Therapy can improve the condition and the sooner the interventions are provided, the better it can be for your child.


To better help your child improve their condition, there are some basic facts that parents with a child gripped with CD must know.


What is CD?

CD is classified as a “disruptive behavior disorder” common among children and teens. It has emotional and behavioral symptoms that can be described as persistent, repetitive and gripping. They may exhibit these behaviors in various social situations or settings.

The condition can be categorized into three types, depending on the age of onset – childhood onset, adolescent onset and unspecified onset. It can also be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the intensity of the symptoms.


What the statistics say about “Conduct Disorder”?

About 2 to 16 percent of American children have CD. The statistical figures show that it is more common among boys than girls. Boys have a higher rate at 6 to 16 percent, while girls have 2 to 9 percent. The research also reveals that the age at which the condition develops is higher towards late childhood, around age 10, or early adolescence.

The earlier the onset of conduct disorder occurs, the more likely the ones affected are to suffer from school issues and strained peer relationships. Studies also reveal that CD is among the most common condition diagnosed in emotional health settings.


The symptoms: Is this your child?

Mild symptoms can easily allow you to miss the signs of CD.  In fact, youngsters with this condition may be perceived as courageous and confident – not being afraid of the dark or independent. However, not recognizing the early symptoms, runs the risk of matters getting worse.

Not following the rules and being difficult, or undisciplined they can have the tendency to offend and hurt others with “aggressive conduct, deceitful and destructive behavior,” says Healthline. With the severe type, your child may “display behavior problems beyond the knowledge of who is available to give a diagnosis, which can result in substantial harm to others.”  According to Web MD, children and teens with conduct disorder may also tend to be “irritable, have low self-esteem, and throw frequent temper tantrums.”  Adolescents may also be prone to substance abuse.


Tracing the Roots: What may lead to CD?

The definite cause of CD isn’t clear, but it is widely held that it can be triggered by several factors – genetic, biological, behavioral, social, and environmental. If conduct disorder “runs in the family,” your child could be at a higher risk.  If there is perhaps, an imbalance or injury in the part of the brain that regulates emotions, impulses, and behaviors, they can be more vulnerable to the condition.

Emotional and behavioral conditions, such as “deficits in cognitive processing,” may also bring about CD.  Youngsters who have self-esteem and self-image issues can also be vulnerable. In addition, an “unhealthy environment,” or those exposed to physical abuse, dysfunctional family life, substance abuse in the family, and other disturbing experiences, may also be at greater danger in developing CD.


Is your child at risk for CD?

Healthline says your child is at higher risk of developing conduct disorder by:

  • being male
  • living in an urban environment
  • living in poverty
  • having a family history of conduct disorder
  • having a family history of behavioral illness
  • having other psychiatric disorders
  • having parents who abuse drugs or alcohol
  • having a dysfunctional home environment
  • having a history of experiencing traumatic events
  • being abused or neglected


What does the CD research say about it?

  • It has genetic and environmental components. There are also other factors that can contribute to its development. This means that if your child has the genetic inclination, providing a nurturing environment and professional interventions can significantly allay the onset of CD.
  • It can develop along with other emotional and behavioral disorders. Among these conditions are mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It may similarly co-occur with substance abuse.
  • The impact of the CD can be curbed. Children and adolescents with CD can grow up to become socially adjusted, healthy adults. If a child has difficulties in processing social cues and information, they can be helped by therapy.
  • There are very promising treatment methods and approaches to help your child. Use of medications can help, but it isn’t always an answer or what is needed. Scientific studies show that early or prompt treatment using structured and intensive interventions can address the multiple contexts of the conduct disorder. Some of these treatments include cognitive behavioral approaches, family therapy, and multi-systemic therapy.


Why are assessment and treatment imperative?

The proper assessment of your child’s symptoms may be a necessary step for successful treatment to take place. It should be given by a qualified professional, preferably by an expert in children’s emotional health, as well as having a supportive family. The treatment for conduct disorder generally requires the involvement of the relatives living with the child.

To arrive at an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate and individualized treatment plan for your child, your honest input is critical. This is because your child’s therapist must understand the social and environmental context in which your child’s behavior occurs. The treatment program is usually designed to help your child navigate the challenges of their developmental milestones with the goal of successfully adapting to adulthood.


What can you do to help your child?

Learning the basic facts about conduct disorder can be necessary for all parents or guardians. Its value can’t be underestimated, particularly when their child is showing difficulty in following rules or behaving in a socially acceptable or appropriate manner. Remember that conduct disorder is a serious emotional condition that requires professional attention. Diagnosis of the symptoms is something that a qualified child therapist is trained to do. Get in touch with Carolina Counseling Services in Cameron, NC – on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks and be matched with one of our experienced independently contracted counselors.

The contracted therapists with CCS – Cameron, NC, will be happy to help you understand conduct disorder better. They can also discuss and explore with you the treatment options available for CD.  You can work together and construct an individualized treatment program for your child. It may be time to prevent the complications and symptoms from spiraling. Call Counseling Services in Cameron, NC – on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks, and let them contract the right counselor for your child and promising future.


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Rose Thomas, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Teens, Individuals, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Parenting, PTSD/Trauma Recovery, Acute Stress Disorder, Adult Sexual Abuse Survivors, Adjustment Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorders, Self-injurious/Self-Harm, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety, Disruptive Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Marital Conflict and Discord, LGBT, Substance Use Disorders
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Specializes in: (Ages 7+) Adolescents, College Students, Individuals, Couples, and Families, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma (child and adult, TFCBT certified), Relationship Issues, Coping Skills, Adjustment Disorders, Life Transitions, Suicidal Ideation, Self-esteem, OCD, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting Skills, LGBTQ
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