Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder is a persistent pattern of behaviour in children and adolescents in which they violate the rights of others or basic social rules. These behaviour patterns are exhibited across different settings—home, school, and other social situations—and they significantly impair the individual’s social, academic and family functioning. Conduct Disorder can also have its onset as early as before age 10. 



  • Difficulty feeling and expressing empathy or remorse
  • Inability to read social cues
  • Misinterpretation of ambiguous actions as hostile or aggressive
  • Escalate situations into conflict


Behavioural Signs

  • Aggressive behaviour that causes or threatens harm to other people or animals (e.g. bullying, engaging in fights, or abusing animals)
  • Non-aggressive behaviours anti-social behaviours (e.g. vandalism or arson)
  • Deceitfulness or theft (e.g. burglary, lying, or scamming)
  • Serious rule violations (e.g. school truancy, breaking curfew, and running away from home)
  • Risk-taking and impulsive behaviours


Factors Impacting Conduct Disorder

While it is easy to simply put the blame on the child or adolescent for these anti-social behaviours, it is important to remember that there are a range of genetic and environmental risk factors that contribute to Conduct Disorder. Understanding these factors enables us to identify and help youths who are at-risk. 

   Genetic or Biological Factors

  • A history of Conduct Disorder in the family
  • A history of other mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia, Depression and Bipolar Disorder
  • Impairments related to the frontal lobe in the brain, as these can lead to impulse controls and emotional regulation issues 

Environmental Factors:

  • Disorganised environments (e.g. Exposure to alcohol and substance abuse, violence, and neglect at home)
  • At-risk neighbourhoods (e.g. Areas with high crime rates and prevalence of violence and delinquency)



If you feel that your child is presenting some symptoms of Conduct Disorder, you should refer them to a professional to will make the appropriate assessments, diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and intervention is important as the condition could worsen without appropriate treatment.

Mental health professionals can help address problems faced in childhood and adolescence, and equip them with skills that are essential to navigate developmental milestones, as well as guide the process of transition into adulthood. 

Listed below are some forms of therapy that such professionals may use:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Cognitive reframing of experiences and development of skills to emotionally regulate in more adaptive ways. 

Behavioural Therapy: Unlearn inappropriate and antisocial behaviours and set appropriate behavioural expectations. 

Family Therapy: Improve family relationships and dynamics and involve parents in developing a child's healthy self-image and self-esteem. 

Peer Group Therapy: Development and practice of interpersonal skills through interactions with others. 


How Else Can Parents Support Their Child?

  • Learn more about Conduct Disorder to understand what your child is going through
  • Increase parental monitoring and enforce stricter rules 
  • Remain patient and calm, even if your child is being defiant 
  • Be involved in their treatment and reinforce the skills they learnt
  • Be encouraging and supportive throughout treatment