What happens in conduct disorder, exactly?

What is it?

Conduct disorder (CD) is a mental disorder, in which the person repeatedly violates the rights of others or violates very fundamental social norms. These behaviors can be referred to as antisocial behaviors. CD is often thought to be the “precursor” of antisocial personality disorder, as CD is diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, while antisocial personality disorder cannot be diagnosed before the person is 18 years old.

In the USA, the lifetime occurrence rate of CD is 12% in men and 7% in women. The average age of onset is 11,2.

What causes it?

The causes of CD are most likely very complicated. They can include things like cognitive and neurological factors, events in the person’s life, and family and peer influences.

The frontal lobe, a part of our brain, is associated with memory, emotional expression, and intelligence. These factors make it very important in forming our personalities. Damage to the frontal lobe has been associated with CD – this can be partly due to the damage potentially leading to a reduced ability to control impulses and learn from past experiences. Certain personality traits, like low agreeableness, can be predisposing factors. CD is also more common in children who have experienced child abuse, who live in a dysfunctional and/or poor family, and whose family members are drug or alcohol abusers.

What happens during it?

Children with CD have a number of common characteristics, some of them being lower levels of fear and a lower need of social validation.

Abuse or neglect at a young age can alter the hormone stress system. While an overactive stress system can lead to problems like depression, an underactive one can lead to antisocial behavior. The children might become “numb” after being under constant stress, and their behavior might not be as limited by a fear of consequences as with normal people.

These experiences can also affect the way the child processes the behavior of others – if they have grown up in an environment where they have constantly had to watch out for aggression, they might later on be very sensitive to signs of hostility and therefore over-interpret them and overreact.

Not all abused children develop CD, which is why researchers have turned to genetics for answers. One gene variant that increases the likelihood of CD, for example, probably does so by making its carrier more sensitive to uncomfortable social situations, which consequentially makes them more likely to react.

How can it be treated?

The problems in the environment of the child should be addressed. If the child lives in an abusive family, for example, they can be placed into other homes, or if there is dysfunction like marital problems or depression in the family, these should be fixed. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help the child to express and control their emotions appropriately.


I would love to post every day, but I haven’t been able to do that recently and unfortunately will not be able to do that in the next couple of weeks. I have two really important exams coming up, and I need to prioritize my time. Being forced to compromise, I’ve decided that I’ll rather make better posts less often than short and badly researched posts every day. I’ll return to my old schedule when the exams are over – thanks for the patience 🙂 

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorde,r https://www.google.fi/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjk2I-lm4rPAhWBDpoKHYNuA0QQFgggMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wodc.nl%2Fimages%2Fob270_summary_tcm44-150785.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHudJSnEl1tO29B0D3yyaynGBo0mQ&sig2=MbUFgiE2SkP-QfhboJzpgA (a PDF called “Brain mechanisms and antisocial behavior”),  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1925033/, http://www.healthline.com/health/conduct-disorder#Treatments7


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