Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder is one of the newer categories appearing in the official DSM-IV-TR criteria. It has been specially created to describe and categorize children who engage in behaviors that violate societal rules. In effect, Conduct Disorder is a sub-category of Antisocial Personality Disorder which we will be discussing in coming articles.

Many children with conduct disorder go on to become juvenile delinquents and have a higher than average rate of drug use. Unfortunately this early manifestation of antisocial behavior is a strong indicator that as the child reaches physical maturity, a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) may be given if these behaviors persist into adulthood.

Long-term research indicates that many adults with antisocial personality disorder have a history of conduct disorder as children and the likelihood of an adult diagnosis with APD increases if ADHD is present in association with conduct disorder. The types of behaviors exhibited by an adult with APD such as irresponsible behavior at work, within family situations and friendships are similar to those that manifest in a child with conduct disorder. Thus the more juvenile equivalents of the adult behavior, such as recurrent truancy, shoplifting and running away from home are typical of conduct disorder. One of the major differences between the two age-specific disorders is that in antisocial personality disorder there is a noted absence of remorse, which is usually still present in children with conduct disorder.

Twin studies indicate there is a genetic component to conduct disorder as indeed there is with antisocial personality disorder, but as with any nature-nurture debate, it is not necessarily all about genes. Environment too plays its part in the development of this disorder. Chronic stress in the home of a child predisposed to conduct disorder places them at a greater risk of experiencing the problem. However, a genetic predisposition does not make it inevitable that the condition will be expressed in any given child.

We will look at the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder in coming blogs.

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