Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Conduct Disorder and Behaviour Problems in Children

conduct disorder

Conduct disorder and behaviour problems in children make the news when a 5-year old or a grandmother is killed while extorting money. Aggression in children  is just one of the offenses associated with conduct disorders . The seemingly lesser offenses of stealing in thousands from the home, or smoking 'weed' with their friends, pale in contrast. At the lowest end of the spectrum are those children who repeatedly confront authority in school or at home. Dubbed as 'monster kids' these children are viewed indulgently as being mischievous, naughty, 'bad', or 'delinquent'. Very seldom are they seen as having a mental health problem - a conduct disorder.

What is Conduct Disorder?

Behaviour problems that are persistent, violate the rights of others, go against societal norms, and disrupt family life, indicate a conduct disorder and merit psychiatric assessment. Conduct disorder is amongst the commonest childhood disorders seen in our clinic. Every one of us knows or has heard of a child with conduct disorders . Conduct disorder is characterised by the following behaviour problems .
This child (maybe a 2 year old preschool cherub) picks fights, bullies, or physically hurts younger siblings at home. He is frequently taken to the principal's office for fighting in school. When this child enters the park the other children get ready to leave. He has often used a weapon (stick, cricket bat, stone or brick) to deliberately assault a person or hurt an animal.
Destruction of property
These children are wilfully destructive. They are the ones who scratch the paint off your new car, slash the seats of parked 2 wheelers, deface the lift, cut up a mothers dress, and tear the library book. More seriously they set fire to clothes and in extreme cases to vehicles.
Lying and deceit
These are children who steal from parents, grandparents, and classmates. They forge their parent's signature on school reports, cheques, and credit cards.They lie,  cheat and pilfer from shops.
Violation of rules
They stay out until late at night against home rules and curfews. They 'bunk' school to hang out with other antisocial friends, and run away from home overnight.

What happens to children with conduct disorder behaviours ?

Most parents feel a child will outgrow behaviour problems and conduct disorders .  However studies show this is not so. If not addressed and treated, children with conduct disorders are suspended from school, and have brushes with the law. Half of these children also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which further impacts their schooling. Broken relationships and marriages, and substance abuse including alcohol and cannabis abuse are common. As adults children with behaviour problems develop antisocial personalities and lead a criminal lifestyle. In the extreme a child with conduct disorder will murder his grandmother or a hapless neighbour's toddler.