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Conduct Disorders in Children: Oppositional Defiant Disorder ODD, Anti-social behavior

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I. What are Conduct Disorders?

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~Buddha

In our society, children and adolescents who exhibit the complicated group of behavioral and emotional problems of conduct disorders,
are those children who are considered 'bad', rather than mentally ill. These children have a great deal of difficulty controlling their anger, following rules and acting in socially accepted ways. It has been estimated that these disorders occur in approximately 3 to 10 children out of 100, with boys more likely than girls to exhibit this behavior.

The grouping of the behaviors of Conduct Disorders is broken down into two areas: Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Disorder. Conduct Disorder (CD) is defined as a persistent pattern in which the basic rights of others and important social norms and rules are violated.
The Conduct Disorder syndrome groups may sometimes include other forms of anti-social behavior such as Explosive Disorders. Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) is defined as a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior without the more serious violations of the basic rights of others that are seen in conduct disorders. There are many features that overlap the two areas of behavior.

II. What are the symptoms of Conduct Disorder?

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder are characterized by a grouping of behaviors. Some of the behaviors associated with CD are stealing, running away from home, lying, setting fires, truancy, vandalism, cruelty to animals and people, weapon use, and initiating fights.

Some behavioral symptoms associated with ODD are: losing temper easily, argumentive with both children and adults, active defiance of rules, angry or resentful, deliberately annoys others and is easily annoyed, blames others for their actions, and spiteful and vindictive.

III. How are Conduct Disorders diagnosed?

When CD or ODD is being diagnosed, the diagnostician (physician
or therapist) will ask a series of questions to attempt to identify the behavior. They will also ask the parents or caregivers whether or not the child's normal day-to-day activities are characterized by some of these behavior patterns. They will want to try to identify a pattern in these behaviors, and also determine how often they occur. By following a set of behavior indicators, the diagnosis is made based
on these factors. CD and ODD rarely if ever occur on their own: usually the child will have some other neuropsychological disorder such as AD (H) D. These co-occurrences are taken into consideration when recommendations for treatment are made.

IV. How are Conduct Disorders and ODD treated?

A. Medication: Medications are rarely used alone in the treatment of conduct disorder and ODD. They are used when treating the disorder that occurs simultaneously, such as ADD, depression and anxiety.
Link here to see medications for other disorders

B. Behavior modification for both parents and child: Therapist will
work with the child and his or her parents to teach them better methods. Among the techniques that are used are modeling,
selective reinforcement, and behavioral role-playing.

More information on Behavior Modification

C. Community-based residential programs: Education. These are programs in which children and sometimes the parents are involved
in social skills training, tutoring, and reinforcement procedures.
D. School interventions if possible.
E. Education: social skills training
F. Residential Treatment Program: How can a residential program help my child?

V. I suspect that my child has a Conduct Disorder or ODD-what do I do now?

Professionals to Seek Out

  1. See your physician or pediatrician
  2. Consult with your clergy to assist in spiritual and
    practical guidance
  3. Consult with an educational consultant to help you
    find the right program for your child.
  4. Consult with a therapist or counselor.
  5. Consult with an Educational Advocate to help you
    with your current school situation
  6. Consult with an Educational Consultant to find the
    right program for your child.

Find out more about Educational Consultants


  1. Inpatient: hospitalization
  2. Outpatient Facilities
    Outpatient facilities have therapeutic staff on-hand to offer
    therapy and support to patients on a part-time basis.
  3. Day Treatment
  4. Residential Programs

a. Emotional Growth School
Emotional Growth schools are highly structured environments that stress academics and teach coping skills through the use of conflict resolution. Children learn they can make choices and learn to accept responsibility through the use of modeling behavior and outdoor therapy. The length of stay is between 9 and 18 months, at which time they either return to the mainstream or attend a boarding school, if possible. Parents are involved with the school staff and the children throughout the child's attendance at the school.
Find out more about Outdoor Therapy

b. Therapeutic Residential Boarding School
These schools are usually fully accredited schools with emotional growth programs. They stress holistic education: growth of the person through holding children responsible for their actions. There is no rehabilitation or physicians on staff.

c. Therapeutic Wilderness Program
A Therapeutic Wilderness program does not necessarily have academics; their goal can be to introduce the children to a different role. These programs use Outdoor Therapy to help build low self-esteem. They make obtainable goals for them to reach. The programs vary but they are about 6 to 8 weeks long. It is a very structured program with a goal of teaching the children coping skills and raising their self-esteem. Children go from this program to mainstream back into their public school or attend a small structured boarding school.
Find out more about Therapeutic Wilderness Programs

d. Residential Treatment School
A Residential Treatment Program or School provides a full professional staff that includes therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. They also have a small academic program. Many of
the children in the program have been recommended there by mental health agencies that make the placements. It is a highly structured environment whose emphasis is on treatment and learning coping skills and independent living. Chemical dependence education
and rehabilitation is also provided. Outdoor therapy is sometimes used to facilitate building social skills and self-esteem. Recovery programs are also available. Residential Treatment schools are secure schools.
Find out more about Residential Treatment Schools

Which program is right for my child?



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