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PSYCHOPATHOLOGY OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY. WEEK 13 CONDUCT DISORDER. INTRODUCTION. Conduct problems are age-inappropriate actions and attitudes that violates family expectation, societal norms, and the personal or property rights of others.

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  • Conduct problems are age-inappropriate actions and attitudes that violates family expectation, societal norms, and the personal or property rights of others.
  • The types, causes, and outcomes of conduct problems in children are wide ranging, requiring that we consider several different types and pathways.
  • Children with conduct problems often grow up in extremely unfortunate family and neighborhood circumstances.
diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder dsm iv tr
Diagnostic criteria for Conduct Disorder (DSM-IV-TR)

A. A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of three (or more) of the following criteria in the past 12 months, with at least one criterion present in the past 6 months:

Aggression to people and animals

(1) often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others (2) often initiates physical fights (3) has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., abat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun) (4) has been physically cruel to people (5) has been physically cruel to animals (6) has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery) (7) has forced someone into sexual activity 


Destruction of property 

(8) has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage (9) has deliberately destroyed others' property (other than by fire setting)

Deceitfulness or theft 

(10) has broken into someone else's house, building, or car (11) often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., "cons" others) (12) has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery) 

Serious violations of rules 

(13) often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years (14) has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in parental or parental surrogate home (or once without returning for a lengthy period) (15) is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years 


Genetic Influences

biologically based traits such as a difficult temperament or impulsivity, may predispose children to develop conduct disorders.

Neurobiological Factors

The behavioral Activation System (BAS) stimulate behaviour in response to signals of reward or nonpunishment.

The Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) produces anxiety and inhibits ongoing behavior in the presence of novel events, innate fear stimuli and signals of nonreward or punishment.


Social Cognitive Factors

Immature forms of thinking (such as egocentrism) and a lack of social perspective taking, failure to use verbal mediators to regulate behaviour and cognitive distortions.

Family Factors

Poor disciplinary practices, a lack of parental supervision, marital conflict, family isolation and violence in the home.

Societal Factors

poverty, concentration of immigrants, neighborhood crime, family disruption etc.

Cultural Factors

Across cultures, socialization of children for aggression has been found to be one of the strongest predictors of aggressive acts such as homicide and assault.

  • Parent Management Training (PMT)

Teaches parents to change their child’s behaviour in the home using contingency management techniques. The focus in on improving parent-child interactions and enhancing other parenting skills.

  • Cognitive Problem-Solving Skills Training (PSST)

Identifies the child’s cognitive deficiencies and distortions in social situations and provides instruction, practice, and feedback to teach new ways of handling social situations. The child learn to appraise the situation, change his or her attributions about other children’s motivations, be more sensitive to how other children feel, and to generate alternative and more appropriate solutions.


Multisystemic Treatment (MST)

An intensive approach that draws on other techniques such as PMT, PSST, and marital therapy as well as specialized interventions such as special education, and referral to substance abuse treatment programmes.

  • Preventive Interventions