Conduct Disorder

"Educational Implications"

Aggressive behavior is one of the four symptoms of Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a serious emotional and behavioral disorder normally found in children and teens. Children or teens with this disorder will have an array of disruptive or violent behaviors and will have difficulties following rules. Behaviors lasting for a long period of time that violates others rights and are disruptive to everyday life are considered to be a conduct disorder. Children or teens exhibiting signs of conduct disorder will have some of the following symptoms.

Symptoms for conduct disorder are categorize in four classes.

  1. Violation of rules: Personal actions that go against normal society rules or engaging in behaviors that are inappropriate for the persons age.
  2. Deceitful behavior: Actions include but are not limited to lying, shoplifting or stealing.
  3. Destructive behavior: A disregard for another person's property and intentional destruction such as arson or vandalism.
  4. Aggressive behavior: Actions that threaten or cause physical harm such as fighting, bullying, use of weapons, cruelty to animals and forcing another into sexual activity.

No child is exempt from having a conduct disorder and nor is a conduct disorder preventable. However, recognizing and addressing the symptoms earlier on can minimize the agony for the child and family. The impact of a conduct disorder can be lessened with a nurturing, supportive and consistent home environment balanced with love and discipline.


Conduct disorder is a blend of biology, psychology, environment, social and genetics all play a role in the disorder. However, there is NO exact cause of conduct disorder.

  • Biology - Studies have shown that defects or injuries to regions of the brain that regulates behavior, impulse control and emotions can lead to behavior disorder. When nerve circuits in these regions are damaged and or doesn’t work properly conduct disorder symptoms may arise. Biological ailments such as mental illness, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety disorder contributes to the symptoms of conduct disorder.
  • Psychological - Some experts believe that conduct disorders can reflect problems with moral awareness (notably, lack of guilt and remorse) and deficits in cognitive processing
  • Environment - dysfunctional family life, childhood abuse, traumatic experiences, a family history of substance abuse, and inconsistent discipline by parents may contribute to the development of conduct disorder.
  • Social - Low socioeconomic status and not being accepted by their peers appear to be risk factors for the development of conduct disorder.
  • Genetics - Many children and teens with conduct disorder have close family members with mental illnesses, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and personality disorders. This suggests that a vulnerability to conduct disorder may be at least partially inherited.


  1. Boys are more likely to have a conduct disorder than girls.
  2. It is estimated that 6%-16% of boys in the U.S. have conduct disorder.
  3. It is estimated that  2% to 9% of girls in the U.S. have conduct disorder.
  4. Most often conduct disorder occurs in late childhood or the early teen years.


  • Look for signs and symptoms of conduct disorder.
  • Children that exhibits actions from one of the four symptoms may have a conduct disorder.
  • If signs or symptoms are present, a doctor will schedule a complete medical and psychiatric history exam.
  • If there are no physical cause for the symptoms, a doctor my refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist and or mental health profession.
  • Mental health specialist will administer a interview to assess a child for mental disorder.
  • Doctors will observe the child's symptoms, attitude and behaviors.
  • Doctors will also interview the child's parents, teachers and coaches.


There is NO cure for conduct disorder, but with a solid home life, the implementation of psychotherapy and possibly some medication the disorder is manageable.

  • Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy is aimed at helping a child to learn the appropriate way to express one's self.
  • Medications - There is no specific medication for conduct disorder various drugs may be used to treat some symptoms.
  • Family therapy - Family therapy is use to help improve the quality of the home setting and there is also parent management training (PMT). PMT educates parents on ways to positively influence their child's behavior at home.

Effective Teaching Strategies

  • Make sure the curriculum is age appropriate and avoid infantile materials.
  • Praising is important, but it needs to be sincere.
  • Implement technology, students with conduct disorders work well on computers.
  • Children with conduct disorder like to argue, avoid the power struggle by staying calm and not arguing.
  • Establish clear and concise rule. Rules should be displayed.
  • Incorporate teaching social skills, conflict resolution strategies and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner.
  • When choosing students to participate in class, avoid choosing a student with conduct disorder last.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
3615 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016-3007

American Academy of Family Physicians
PO Box 11210, Shawnee Mission, KS 66207

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
1110 North Glebe Road, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201
Free educational materials for professionals and the public

SAMHSA'S National Mental Health Information Center-Center for Mental Health Services
PO Box 42557, Washington, DC 20015

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children, by Ross W. Greene, HarperCollins, 2001.


Mental Health and Conduct Disorder [Internet] 2014


Conduct Disorder Symptoms [Internet] 2013


Mental Health Guide (2013) Conduct Disorder


Children's Mental Health Services/Reach (2015) Conduct Disorders


Mental Health America


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