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Conduct disorders - children and teenagers

behaviour; tantrum; conduct; disorder; aggressive; mental; health; ;

Conduct disorder is a name used to describe really difficult behaviours in some children and young people. People who are said to have a conduct disorder behave in ways that may harm others and in ways that others disapprove of. Children and young people with conduct disorders usually have little concern for others.


 Behaviours may include  aggression, bullying, cruelty to animals or people, and law-breaking activities such as shoplifting, vandalism and deliberately lighting fires.

Children with conduct disorder are easily upset, have temper tantrums, often do not want to cooperate and are frequently restless and hyperactive. They may have trouble at school and have difficulties with their school work, and may get into trouble with the police and/or the law as an adolescent. More boys have these really difficult behaviours than girls.

Conduct Disorder is one of a group of behavioural disorders known collectively as disruptive behaviour disorders, which include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early intervention and treatment is important, since children with untreated CD are at increased risk of developing a range of problems during their adult years including substance use, personality disorders and mental illnesses.

Parents often feel defeated and exhausted.

All children get into trouble, get cross and won't do as they are told some of the time, especially children who are under 5 years old. However if this is happening so often that the child is said to have a 'Conduct disorder' it is quite a serious thing.

More information

For more information about conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, have a look at the information on  the Better Health Channel.

For more information about ADHD have a look at this topic on this website

What can you do about your child's conduct disorder?

If you think your child's behaviour has gone past the point of being 'difficult but normal' you should seek help. The person who supports you may be a child psychiatrist, child psychologist, counsellor, or social worker. Talk with your doctor, your child's teacher or school counsellor, or local community health centre to find out how to access these services.

You will need ongoing support to make changes for the child, yourself and the rest of the family, as it is difficult to make things better alone.

Keep on trying to improve your relationship with your child even if you get very tired and want to give up sometimes because you feel you aren't getting anywhere.

Topics that may be helpful include

Resources in South Australia 

Further information

eMedicine Pediatrics 

MedlinePlus (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health) 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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