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Adolescent Conduct Disorder

Alternate Names

  • severe behavior problems
  • acting out
  • antisocial behavior, recurring

Definition

Adolescent conduct disorder is a series of problem behaviors in individuals older than 10 years of age. A person with this disorder typically does things that are socially unacceptable. The person also constantly violates the rights of others.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Adolescents who have been victim of child abuse or neglect are at a much higher risk for developing a conduct disorder. Biological factors may contribute as well. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often occurs in a child with a conduct disorder. Other factors include being poor and being raised in a chaotic home environment.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

A nurturing home environment is the best prevention for conduct disorders in adolescents. Children from homes with a good balance of love and discipline are less likely to develop this disorder than are those from abusive, overly permissive, or neglectful homes.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

A conduct disorder is diagnosed by a healthcare or mental health care professional. A full psychological and social history will be taken. Also, a complete physical exam should be done to see if there are any medical conditions that could be adding to the behavior problems.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Adolescents with this disorder are at risk for developing a personality disorder. Serious problems in school and with the law often develop as well.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Because adolescents with this disorder tend to be aggressive, they may cause harm to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment is aimed at helping the individual learn to deal with his or her emotions and impulses. It is important that the adolescent have a predictable, secure, and nurturing environment. Parents need to see to it that he or she has reasonable limits set. The adolescent needs to know what is expected of him and what is and is not permissible behavior.
In addition, the school may set up a plan for special education services. Parents need to work closely with the school. Counseling is needed for the adolescent to help him or her deal with self-esteem, mood, anger control, and interpersonal problems. This includes helping him or her understand what may be causing the behavior. It also includes teaching the adolescent coping skills and ways to change his or her behavior.
Medications, if given, are generally aimed at other associated conditions that may be contributing to the disorder, rather than at the conduct problem per se.

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