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Conduct Disorder in Adolescence

Explain conduct disorder in adolescence to include symptomology, duration, and social factors

Conduct disorder refers to a collection of antisocial behaviors exhibited by adolescents that infringe on the rights of other people and that defy societal norms (Reavy, Stein, Quina, & Paiva, 2014). These behaviors are repetitive and persistent in nature. Research studies have revealed that cases of conduct disorder are higher in adolescents who were jailed at a certain point in their lives. In addition, its occurrence is higher in boys that in girls.

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The symptoms of the disorder are divided into four main classes. These include aggression, theft, grievous violation of societal rules, and destruction of property (Belini, 2014). The disorder is critical because medical experts describe it as a psychiatric condition. Symptoms include aggression towards people and animals, participation in criminal activities, and expression of emotional disturbances that affect the social and economic well being of victims (Belini, 2014). Other common symptoms of conduct disorder include drug use and substance abuse, school abdication, poor marital adjustment, poor performance in school, incarceration, and violence (Frick, 2012).

Conduct disorder sets in during the onset of adolescence. Rebelliousness is a common feature of adolescence. However, juveniles with conduct disorder exhibit persistent antisocial behaviors. If the disorder is not diagnosed and treated, it progresses into adulthood. Therefore, its duration of existence depends on effective diagnosis and treatment. In many victims, it starts in childhood and progresses into adolescence. Several social factors are responsible for development of conduct disorder in adolescents.

These factors include poor child care, peer pressure, bad neighborhood, family conflicts and instability, poor parenting, and ineffective family relations (Frick, 2012). It is the responsibility of parents to instill discipline and good morals into their children. Association with deviant peers influences adolescents into taking part in antisocial behaviors. In addition, bad neighborhoods with rampant criminal activities expose young people to antisocial behaviors that influence their attitudes, personalities, and mannerisms.

Provide the criteria for the diagnosis of conduct disorder in adolescence

Diagnosis of conduct disorder includes a combination of tests and examinations. A definite treatment for diagnosis is non-existent. However, several approaches that involve diagnosis through examination of symptoms are used. The Delinquent Activities Scale (DAS) is an efficacious approach applied in diagnosis of conduct disorder (Reavy et al., 2014). In a research study involving 190 incarcerated adolescents between the ages of 14 and 19, it was revealed that DAS is an effective diagnosis method for conduct disorder (Reavy et al., 2014).

It was used to establish major indicators of the disorder among participants. The researchers used factors such as age of onset, severity of symptoms, and social influences to develop certain indicators. Correct diagnosis is based on the principle that symptoms of conduct disorder and symptoms of the onset of adolescence are different. The onset of adolescence is characterized by rebelliousness, cases of rules violation, and instances of aggression. On the other hand, conduct disorder is characterized by persistent cases of violence, theft, violation of rules, and destruction of property. The first step in conduct disorder diagnosis is a thorough examination of an adolescent’s past.

Information collected from such an examination include past cases of suspension or expulsion from school, drug use, alcohol consumption, property destruction, and involvement in physical fights. Other factors considered in such examinations include quality of relationship with parents, type of neighborhood, and relationships with peers. Research has shown that conduct disorder is associated with dysfunctional parenting practices such as lack of parental involvement, corporal punishment, lack of monitoring, and negative reinforcement (Frick, 2012).

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The severity of symptoms is an important aspect of conduct disorder diagnosis (Reavy et al., 2014). According to Reavy et al., (2014), symptoms severity is determined through study of parental influence and the age of the disorder’s onset. Causes of early onset of CD include early initiation of marijuana use and bad parental influence. The disorder is diagnosed in adolescents who showed certain antisocial behaviors in childhood and adolescence. Children who were exposed to antisocial behaviors while growing up in bad neighborhoods and dysfunctional families are more likely to exhibit severe symptoms compared to children who grew in good neighborhoods and families.

Bad neighborhoods expose children to violence as well as drug and substance use. Adolescents with conduct disorder are impulsive, unruly, aggressive, truant, and insensitive to other people’s feelings and welfare. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and substance abuse exhibit symptoms similar to those exhibited by conduct disorder (Reavy et al., 2014). Therefore, physical examination is conducted in order to eliminate the possibility that the symptoms are indications of other medical conditions.

Explain, in detail, the treatment approach to conduct disorder in adolescence

According to research, the most effective treatment for conduct disorder is individualized and comprehensive modular intervention. This treatment approach involves a combination of several treatment remedies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, parent management training, crisis management, and peer relationship development. The major treatment options include therapy, pharmacotherapy, and behavioral modification (Frick, 2012). In certain cases, different aspects of each treatment remedy are used together for better results. Therapy is a highly successful remedy because treatment is individualized.

The causal processes of antisocial behavior are different among adolescents. Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative. Family therapy is one of the remedies used to treat conduct disorder. Examples of family interventions include cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology (Bellini, 2014). These remedies work better when combined with motivational-based strategies. According to research, the aforementioned remedies change psychopathic behaviors through early diagnosis and treatment. Positive psychology aids in the reduction of psychopathic traits, which are common symptoms of conduct disorder.

Family therapy that focuses on development of positive emotions is efficacious because victims of conduct disorder usually exhibit high levels of negative emotions. The remedy replaces negative emotions with positive emotions. A study conducted on 24 adolescents to study the efficacy of a therapy remedy revealed that therapy increased motivation, positive emotions, and reduced psychopathic traits (Bellini, 2014). In addition, it decreased interpersonal callous traits. An important part of family therapy is parent management training. Research has found out that parent management training is an effective treatment remedy for conduct disorder.

It involves the improvement of a parent’s behavior management skills. Parents are trained to promote play among adolescents, provide clear rules, encourage parent-child relationships, use positive affirmations, and use rewards to encourage positive social behaviors (Bellini, 2014). Such programs are effective because they encourage strengthening of relationships between children and their parents. During a family therapy session, a therapist helps a parent to practice new skills that are important for their child’s behavioral change. In addition, the therapist helps the parent to identify the negative behaviors that need change as well as the positive behaviors that need recognition (Bellini, 2014). Medication is also used in cases where adolescents exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Frick, 2012).


Belini, K. (2014). Are interventions the Savior for Future Psycopathy in Adolescents with Conduct Disorder? College of St. Elizabeth Journal of the Behavioral Sciences, 1-16.

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Frick, P. J. (2012). Developmental Pathways to Conduct Disorder: Implications for Future Directions in Research, Assessment, and Treatment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 41(30, 378-389. Web.

Lafrotune, D., & Meilleur, D. (2014). Medically Defining, Screening, and Treating Conduct Disorder: A French Controversy. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 23(4), 728-737. Web.

Reavy, R., Stein, L. R., Quina, K., & Paiva, A. L. (2014). Assessing Conduct Disorder: A New Management Approach. Journal of Correctional Health Care, 20(1), 4-17. Web.

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