Conduct disorder is defined as consistent behavioral problems that involve aggressive or antisocial acts, often accompanied by anger and irritability. (APA, 2013) Here are some of the signs and symptoms a child with conduct disorder might exhibit:

  • Unusually frequent or severe temper tantrums
  • Frequent lying or dishonesty, especially for personal gain (to avoid getting in trouble or to secure benefits)
  • Conning other people
  • Frequent absences or tardiness from school without a good reason
  • Running away from home
  • Leaving the home or staying out late without informing parents or getting their permission
  • A child who’s restless and easily frustrated
  • Reckless or irresponsible behavior, sometimes engaged in with such callous disregard that it seems like they don’t care or are trying to get in trouble
  • Threatening or intimidating other children
  • Bullying and/or aggressive behavior
  • Early sexual activity, promiscuity or substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal attempts & ideation
  • Getting into frequent conflicts at home or school
  • Defiant or provocative behavior, such as intentionally dressing in a manner they know will draw ire or doing something precisely because they were told not to do it
  • A tendency to misinterpret the actions of others as hostile or over-react to seemingly minor things
  • Engaging in illegal activity such as theft, arson, vandalism, etc.
  • May appear to lack remorse or doesn’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions (often times this is an act, but if a child seems to display little to no remorse at all, it could be a sign of callous & unemotional traits, or early-onset psychopathy).

Characteristics of kids with conduct disorder

Children and teens with CD often have a low self-esteem which they hide beneath a tough exterior. Many have come from compromised upbringings and are generally angry at the world. They often score lower on reading, verbal and intelligence skills, and have trouble adjusting to school, work, or any other type of structured environment.