Tips for Parenting a Child with Conduct Disorder

No child behaves perfectly all of the time. Temper tantrums, disobedience and arguments will all inevitably appear at some point during childhood.

Parents can be tested to their limits but usually things do calm down and family life resumes without too much disruption.

If the behaviors are severe and continue to interfere with the quality of life of the child and others, then they may have a conduct disorder.

• Such a child may also have problems with hyperactivity (poor attention, restlessness) or emotional difficulties such as anxiety, depression or obsessions.

• Sometimes the child only displays the problem behaviors within the family setting. However, the degree of aggression and dissocial acts means it is more serious than just a difficult parent-child relationship.

• Some children with a conduct disorder are socially isolated from their peer group and have no close friends (unsocialised conduct disorder); while others are part of a social group perhaps embarking on group truancy or stealing (socialised conduct disorder).

Oppositional defiant disorder is a conduct disorder usually occurring in younger children. As the name suggests, these children are significantly disobedient and defiant but do not display some of the more extreme aggressive or dissocial acts.

• Clinicians will usually categorize the degree of the conduct disorder in to mild, moderate or severe according to the number of the effect they have on other people.

Effects on child and family

A young person with a conduct disorder will often struggle at school both socially and academically. They can become frustrated and angry, which if not channelled appropriately, can contribute to their repetitive destructive behaviours.

Low self-confidence and self esteem may mean they are more susceptible to drug and alcohol use and criminal activities.

Teenagers with a conduct disorder may engage in risky sexual behaviour.

Whole families and communities can be disrupted by conduct disorder.


There is no one cause of conduct disorder, but the following can increase the risk of a child developing it.

• Genes liked with antisocial behavior, which are more common in boys than girls.

• Difficulties with learning or hyperactive tendencies.

• Being the victim of abuse or bullying.


Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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