Essay on Diagnostic Criteria for Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of the individual’s behavior in which the basic rights of other individuals or/and the major age-appropriate societal norms are violated in the past 12 months. There are three forms of conduct disorder found in children and adolescents: mild, moderate and severe. In case, a child has many conduct problems, which cause a considerable harm to other people, he or she may be diagnosed with severe form of conduct disorder (First, 2002; Murray & Farrington, 2010).

Michael B. First, Allen Frances, Harold Alan Pincus (2002) state that “conduct disorder is not diagnosed if an individual is aged 18 or older, and if criteria are met for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder”(p. 135). In addition, conduct disorder can be viewed as the first sign of other mental health diseases, such as bipolar disorder and depression. Some other disorders associated with conduct disorder include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorder, etc. Developmental disorders and mental retardation can be found in conjunction with conduct disorder. The researchers suggest that the nature of conduct disordered behaviors is persistent and repetitive, but the consequences may be very serious. It is known that “the mild forms of conduct disorder tend to dissipate with maturity”, while more severe forms of conduct disorder “are likely to be chronic” (First et al., 2002, p. 152).

Although the short-term prognosis of conduct disorder may be poor, early diagnosis enables parents, educators, social agencies and legal officials to provide certain assistance to conduct-disordered children and adolescents in order to reduce the dysfunctional effects of conduct disorder on other people and the society on the whole (Marrell, 2003; First et al., 2002).


It has been reported that symptoms of conduct disorder typically emerge during childhood and adolescence. Patients with conduct disorder come to clinical attention rather early because of their inadequate and disruptive behaviors which cause damage to other people. Conduct disorder is easily recognized by school psychologists. According to the community study, “6% of boys and 1.6% of girls aged 6 to 11and 10.4% of boys and 4.1 % of girls aged 12 to 16 were diagnosed as having conduct disorder” (Mrazek & Haggerty, 1994, p. 84). This fact means that children aged 12 to 16 are more conduct disorder prone. In addition, the statistics show that about “40% of children with conduct disorder aged 8 to 12 still had the symptoms of disorder at follow-up four years later” (Mrazek & Haggerty,1994, p. 84).

According to the recent research, “conduct disorder is important not only because of its relatively high frequency and occurrence with other disorders, but also because of its persistence into adolescence and adulthood”(Mrazek & Haggerty, 1994, p. 84).  It has been found that conduct problems in early childhood and in adolescence can be viewed as significant predictors of antisocial behavior and the symptoms of psychopathology in adulthood (Keiley, 2002; Marrell, 2003).



The statistical data show that the prevalence of conduct disorder is “about 6% to 16% of adolescent boys and 2% to 9% of adolescent girls” (Murray & Farrington, 2010, p. 634). Males have more serious symptoms of conduct disorder that females. As adults, males demonstrate more externalizing behaviors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, antisocial personality disorders, criminal activity, while females demonstrate more internalizing behaviors, such as mood and anxiety disorders (Mrazek & Haggerty, 1994, p. 84).

As conduct disorder is the most common disorder in males, educators pay more attention to the behavior of boys. Martin and Hoffman described the prevalence of conduct disorder in their study, that placed “the range of estimation for conduct disorders from about 4% to 8 % in the entire school age population, with boys outnumbering girls at about 3:1 ration on average” (Marrell, 2003, p. 238).

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