Conduct Disorder

Pam Elser, EDU 214, Spring 2015

Conduct Disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.


To be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder a person must display at least three of the following characteristic behaviors in the last 12 months, and at least one in the last six months.

  • Aggressive behavior toward people or animals - bullying, frequent fighting, use of weapons, physical cruelty to others or animals, forced sexual activity
  • Destruction of property - deliberate destruction of property through arson or vandalism
  • Deceitfulness or theft - lying, theft, breaking and entering, shoplifting, forgery
  • Serious violations of rules - history of suspension, chronic truancy, running away, drug and/or alcohol abuse, early sexual activity

Prevalence in the U.S. is 9.5%, 12% for males and 7.1% for females.  Conduct disorder often overlaps with other disorders, including ADHD, anxiety and affective disorders and learning disabilities.


No cause has been identified for Conduct Disorder but many factors may contribute to the development of the condition.

Genetic Factors - The frontal lobe in a person with Conduct Disorder may not be functioning properly, causing among other things:

  • reduced ability to plan future actions
  • lack of impulse control
  • reduced ability to learn from past negative experiences

Environmental Factors

  • child abuse
  • dysfunctional family
  • parents who abuse drugs or alcohol
  • poverty

Teaching Strategies

  • Ensure work is at an appropriate level and materials are age appropriate and relevant.
  • Use technology - especially active computer programs.
  • Avoid power struggles and don't argue.
  • Give options versus commands.
  • Establish clear classroom rules and routines, and engage student in development of rules.
  • Teach social skills - anger management, conflict resolution, problem solving.
  • Teach academic skills - study skills, test taking strategies.

Assistive Technology

While assistive technology is often used for students with learning disabilities and physical handicaps, it is less likely to be considered for those with behavioral disorders. However, assistive technology can be beneficial for students with behavioral disorders such as conduct disorder.

  • Behavioral Support - pagers, devices to help students self-regulate behavior such as Watchminder
  • Organizational Aids - pagers, tablets or palm pilots
  • Other devices - devices that help limit distractions such as ear plugs, active computer programs that help with academic skills and help maintain interest

Family and Community Resources

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3615 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.,  Washington, D.C.20016-3007, Phone: 202-966-7300, Website:
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Maryland, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 475, Columbia, MD 21044, Phone: 410-884-8691, Website:
  • Mental Health America of Metropolitan Baltimore, 711 West 40th Street, Suite 460Baltimore, MD 21211, Phone:  410-235-1178 x 202, Website:

Reference List

  • Anne Arundel County Department of Health, 3 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD, 21401, Phone: 410-222-7095, Website:

Behavior Disorders: Support Group for Parents and Teachers. Behavior Disorders: Support Group for Parents and Teachers: Tips for Dealing with the Conduct Disorder Student. Retrieved from

Bernstein, B.E. (2014, February 12). Diseases & Conditions - Medscape Reference. Conduct Disorder. Retrieved from

Hughes, M. (n.d.). EHow | How to - Discover the expert in you!. Assistive Technology for Students With Behavior Disorders | eHow. Retrieved from

Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland. Conduct Disorder | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Retrieved from,P02560/

Lannie, A.L., & McMurdy, B.L. (2007). The Challenge of Conduct Disorder. Principal Leadership, High school ed, 11-15

Nock, M.K., Kazdin, A.E., Hiripi, E., & Kessler, R.C. (2006). Prevalence, Subtypes, and Correlates of DSM-IV Conduct Disorder in the National Cormorbidity Survey Replication. Psychol Med, , 699-710. Retrieved from

Comment Stream