by Preda A


Conduct disorder (CD) is when a person has behaviors that violate the rights of others or major norms or rules of society. It is an emotional and behavioral disorder.


The cause is not known. It may be due to a mix of genetics and the environment.

Prefrontal Cortex
Prefrontal cortex brain
This area of the brain that is linked to social behavior.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in boys.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having other family members with antisocial behavior
  • Having a mother who used alcohol, smoked, or had a poor diet while pregnant
  • Being around violence
  • Prior child abuse
  • Having parents who have:
    • Mental health problems
    • Substance misuse issues
    • Relationship problems
    • Had legal problems
    • Poor parenting skills


A child with this problem may:

  • Lack care or empathy
  • Bully
  • Fight
  • Use weapons
  • Be cruel to people or animals
  • Steal or lie
  • Force sex acts on others
  • Harm things that belong to others on purpose
  • Break rules
  • Start fires


You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. You will also be asked questions about your child's behaviors. A physical exam will be done. A mental health exam may also be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal is to stop problem behaviors. Choices are:

  • Parent training
  • Individual or group therapy to help children learn to control emotions
  • Medicines may be used with other treatments to manage certain symptoms, such as mood swings


Early care for emotional and behavioral problems may lower the risk of conduct disorder.


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 

Mental Health America 


Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 

Canadian Mental Health Association 


Blair RJ, Leibenluft E, et al. Conduct disorder and callous-unemotional traits in youth. N Engl J Med. 2014 Dec 4;371(23):2207-2216.

Conduct disorder. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: Accessed November 18, 2020.

Conduct disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 18, 2020.

Conduct disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed November 18, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 04/14/2021