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Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Disruptive behavior disorder (DBD) represents a group of mental health conditions with similar symptoms. Referred to as disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorders by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), this group of conditions is noteworthy because they all involve violating the rights and desires of other people and create significant conflict with authority figures and unhealthy functioning in society.

Disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorders affect an individual’s ability to control their emotions and behaviors. In many cases, this lack of control means that a person with one of these conditions may regularly injure others or break laws.

(The Recovery Village)

Children with oppositional defiant disorder often lose their temper. They are quick to argue with adults over rules or requests. They are likely to:

  • Be uncooperative;
  • Argue, even about small and unimportant things;
  • Refuse to follow rules;
  • Deliberately annoy others, and become easily annoyed by other people;
  • Blame others for their mistakes or misbehavior;
  • Behave in angry, resentful, spiteful, and vindictive ways;
  • Anyone is capable of displaying any of these behaviors.

Children with oppositional defiant disorder display them more often than others their age. They are likely to be involved in frequent conflicts with their peers. And they often face discipline at school.

Children and teens who have conduct disorder are likely to:

  • Lack respect or regard for others;
  • Be aggressive toward other people and animals;
  • Bully and intimidate others;
  • Willfully destroy property;
  • Steal and lie without feeling bad about it;
  • Be truant frequently;
  • Run away from home.

(Nationwide Children's)

Conduct disorder is a highly complex condition, and its causes aren’t fully understood. It’s likely that both genetic and environmental factors influence children who develop conduct disorder. Many of these children have a family history of:

  • Substance abuse problems;
  • Antisocial behavior or antisocial personality disorder;
  • Mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder;
  • Schizophrenia.

However, children from well-functioning families can — and do — develop conduct disorder, too.

(Boston Children's Hospital)

Children with disruptive behavior disorders often benefit from special behavioral techniques. These can be implemented at home and at school. Therapeutic approaches typically include methods for:

  • For younger children (under age 9), interventions that help parents more successfully manage their child’s behaviors are very effective;
  • Training children to become more aware of their own anger cues;
  • Adult-implemented positive reinforcement strategies to improve children’s self-control.

If a child has a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, parents may wish to consult with their school to see if it may be beneficial to place them in a special classroom set up to more easily provide effective behavioral interventions.

(Nationwide Children's)

Disruptive Behavior Disorder Resources