Signs & Symptoms

The behaviors of a child or adolescent who has a Conduct Disorder fall into four main groupings:

Aggression to people and animals

  • bullies, threatens or intimidates others
  • often initiates physical fights
  • has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (e.g. a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife or gun)
  • is physically cruel to people or animals
  • steals from a victim while confronting them (e.g. assault)
  • forces someone into sexual activity

Destruction of property

  • deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention to cause damage
  • deliberately destroys other's property

Deceitfulness, lying, or stealing

  • has broken into someone else's building, house, or car
  • lies to obtain goods, or favors or to avoid obligations
  • steals items without confronting a victim (e.g. shoplifting, but without breaking and entering)

Serious violations of rules

  • often stays out at night despite parental objections
  • runs away from home
  • often truant from school

The behavioral disturbances can cause deficits in social, academic or occupational functioning. The behavior usually occurs in a variety of settings, such as home, school and community.

Other manifestations of Conduct Disorder:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) — a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least six months. To warrant a diagnosis of ODD, the child must show frequent occurrence of at least four behaviors such as losing temper, arguing with and defying adults, deliberately doing things that will annoy other people. Children and adolescents with ODD are usually angry and resentful and quick to blame others for their misbehaviors.

Co-occurring disorders

Many children with a conduct disorder may have coexisting conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, ADHD, learning problems, or thought disorders.