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Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder is a serious behavioral problem involving repeated violations of the rights of others, or violation of basic age-appropriate social rules expected of a child. Conduct disorder involes a pattern of aggressive behavior toward people or animals, destruction of property, a pattern of deceitfulness, and/or serious violations of social rules at home or at school. 

Let's examine each of these criteria:

Aggressive behavior toward people or animals - These children may bully other children, or repeatedly get into fights. Some children and adolescents have even used weapons in fights, or used weapons to intimadate others. In the extreme, there is a history of crimes involving violence, including mugging, extortion or forced sexual activity. 

Destruction of property - Some children have intentionally set fires, with the intention of destroying property, while others have vandalized property. In conduct disorder, the child destroys the property of others, rather than destroying his/her own property. 

Deceitfulness - This involves a pattern of breaking rules by lying or stealing from others. Shoplifting is common, often of minor objects, or taking objects from the home of a friend. In more serious cases, the child/adolescent may be a con artist, fooling others or lying to obtain something for nothing. In the extreme, the child or adolescent may have a history of breaking and entering, either of houses, cars, or stores.

Serious violations of social rules - Beginning at a young age, the child stays out late, without parental permission, or skips school, even before age 13. In the extreme, the child or adolescent has run away from home multiple times, staying away at least one overnight.

As you can see, these criteria represent serious behavior problems. Most children with these problems are referred to a psychologist by the juvenile justice system, usually as a condition of probation, after commiting a serious crime. This is a relatively common problem in children, which may occur in approximately 10 percent of males and 5 percent of females. Most of these children show evidence of problems in later childhood or early adolescence. It rarely begins after age 16. Fortunately, most cases are treated successfully, and result in normal behavior during adulthood. However, a large percentage continue to show evidence of antisocial behavior into adulthood, with some developing into antisocial personality disorders. Such individuals usually have lifelong social adjustment problems, with frequent arrests and periods of incarceration.

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