Conduct Disorder


  • Conduct disorder is also called disruptive behavior disorder. This behavior (how your child acts) may be seen in children less than 18 years old. Your child may not follow rules and may have problems getting along with people. Some children with conduct disorder hurt animals, set fires, destroy things, steal, or lie. Children with conduct disorder often also have learning problems. Children that have conduct disorder often also have problems with anxiety and depression. Conduct disorder is more common in boys.

  • Your child's behavior could get worse if conduct disorder is not treated. Your child may be so out of control that he has trouble in school. He may hurt himself or others so he may need to be put in the hospital for a short time. Your child and family may need to go to special meetings. You will learn about conduct disorder at these meetings. You will learn ways to cope with this disorder.


  • Keep a written list of what medicines your child takes and when and why he has to take them. Bring the list of your child's medicines or the pill bottles when you see your child's caregivers. Ask your child's caregiver for information about the medicines.Talk with a caregiver before giving your child any other medicines.

  • Always give your child his medicine as directed by caregivers. Call your child's caregiver if you think the medicines are not helping or if you feel your child is having side effects. Do not stop giving your child his medicine when you think he feels better. Discuss when and how to stop the medicine with your child's caregiver.

  • Your child may need blood tests once he starts taking medicine for conduct disorder. These tests are used to check how much medicine is in your child's blood. Caregivers use the results of these tests to decide how much medicine is right for your child. Your child may need to have these blood tests more than once.

  • Taking vitamins is very important because many people do not eat a healthy diet. Always tell caregivers if you are giving your child any vitamins, herbs, or other supplements to make sure they are the best ones for your child. Caregivers also know if these supplements might interact with your child's other medicines.

Medicine Monitoring:

Each time you meet with your child's caregivers, they will ask you about how your child is feeling. Caregivers watch how your child responds to his medicines. Tell caregivers about side effects or problems your child may be having with his medicine. The amount or kind of medicine your child takes may have to be changed. The goal is for your child to feel better with the least amount of side effects. You and your child's caregiver will also talk about how long your child may need the medicine.


Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.


Accepting that your child has conduct disorder is hard. You and your child may feel angry, sad, or frightened. You may even feel relieved to know why your child is not like other children. These feelings are normal. Talk to your child's caregiver, family, or friends about these feelings. Caregivers will talk with you about how things are going at home. Your caregiver can help your family better understand how to react to a child with conduct disorder.

  • Your family may also want to join a support group. This is a group of people who have a child with conduct disorder. Ask your caregiver for the names and numbers of support groups in your town.

  • Ask your health care provider if they know about books that you can read. Reading about conduct disorder may help you better understand it. You can also call or write one of the following national organizations for more information.
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    3615 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington , DC 20016
    Phone: 1- 202 - 966-7300
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

Types of Therapeutic Sessions:

  • Couples Therapy: When you and your significant other meet together with a caregiver to talk about how to cope with your child's conduct disorder. Your significant other may be your spouse (husband or wife), or a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Family Meetings: Caregivers meet with you, your child, and your family. Caregivers can help your family understand your child's illness and learn better ways to react to a child with conduct disorder.

  • Group Therapy: A series of meetings that your child goes to with other children who have conduct disorder. During these meetings, the children and staff talk together about ways to cope with the problem.

  • Individual Therapy: A time for your child to meet alone with his therapist. They will talk about how to cope with conduct disorder and how your child can feel better about himself.

Types of Therapy Approaches:

  • Assertiveness Training teaches your child to stand up for himself in a positive, non-violent way. It also teaches your child how to ask for what he needs, how to set limits, and how to say no.

  • Behavioral Modification (mah-dih-fih-k-shun) connects specific behaviors (ways of acting) with specific consequences (results). For example, if your child comes home past his curfew, you will take away telephone privileges for a previously agreed upon period of time. If your child follows the rules of his curfew, he can have a previously agreed upon reward, such a having a friend over or renting a movie.

  • Cognitive Therapy helps make your child aware of how he sees things. He may have trouble seeing the good in things around him. Then he is more likely to feel depressed, sad or angry. Cognitive therapy teaches him to recognize how he sees things and helps him see them in a more positive way.

  • Distraction is a way of focusing your child's attention on something other than angry feelings. He may play games, watch TV, or take a walk. He can also visit with friends, paint and write things down. Using planned activities helps to manage the angry feelings. It may also cause him to relax and help him start feeling better about himself and his life.

  • Insight Oriented Therapy teaches your child how to understand his feelings and behavior based on things that have happened with other people. For example, your child may avoid getting close to people if he does not get attention when he needs it. Or, your child may get angry quickly and throw things if someone close also acts that way.

  • Relaxation is another way to focus your child's attention on something other than his bad feelings. Good smells can help change your child's mood and help him relax. These good smells may also help your child's brain make special chemicals called endorphins (n-door-fins). Endorphins are a natural body chemical that can lessen angry feelings. Have your child try listening to music or try taking a warm bath with aromatherapy (uh-ro-muh-thair-uh-p) oils. Candles, massage oils, and scented bubble baths are all ways that smells can be used.

Wellness Hints:

  • Do your best to make sure your child eats healthy foods from all of the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help your child feel better and have more energy.

  • Help your child drink 6 to 8 (soda pop can size) glasses of liquid each day. Or, follow caregiver's advice if your child must limit the amount of liquid he drinks. Good liquids to drink are water, juices, and milk. Limit the amount of caffeine your child drinks. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and soda.

  • Regular sleep is very important. Try to make sure your child gets 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Tell your child's caregiver if your child is not able to sleep or if you think he is sleeping too much.

  • Exercise may make your child feel better and happier. Talk to a caregiver to help you plan an exercise program for your child. It is best to start slowly and do more as your child gets stronger. Walking is a good exercise and easy to do.

  • It is very important that your child not drink alcohol especially while taking medicine for conduct disorder. Alcohol is very bad for a growing child. Drinking alcohol can make your child feel worried and upset and can make his symptoms worse. It can also upset your child's sleep cycle so he feels more tired. Your child should also not take any street or illegal drugs. Tell caregivers if you think your child is drinking alcohol or taking street drugs.

  • Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. Tell caregivers if you think your child is smoking. Caregivers may be able to help your child quit smoking.


  • You have questions or concerns about conduct disorder or your child's medicine.

  • You feel that your child is getting out of control again even with treatment. The sooner your child sees caregivers, the easier it is to control his behavior.

  • Your child is not sleeping well or is sleeping more than usual.

  • Your child cannot eat or is eating more than usual.

  • Your child cannot make it to his next meeting with his caregiver.


  • Your child feels like hurting himself or others.

  • Your child has very bad side effects, such as rash, swelling, or trouble breathing after taking medicine.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Conduct Disorder (Discharge Care)