Disruptive Behavior Disorders

What are Disruptive Behavior Disorders? 

Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) can seriously impact a child’s daily life. Children with disruptive behavior disorders show ongoing patterns of uncooperative and defiant behavior.

Their responses to authority figures range from indifference to hostility.  Their behavior frequently impacts those around them, including teachers, peers, and family members.

The most common types of disruptive behavior disorders include disruptive behavior disorder not otherwise specified (DBD NOS), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). Children with these behavioral disorders can be stubborn, difficult, disobedient, and irritable.

Children with conduct disorder show the same responses to authority figures as discussed above, but in addition, they have a tendency to be physically aggressive and both actively and intentionally violate others’ rights.

The main differences between these disorders are severity, intensity and intentionality of behavior exhibited by the child.

Is there a simpler way to say this in a way that's easily understood at a 5th grade reading level? 

What Symptoms Should Parents Look for?

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
There is usually nothing easy-going or positive about young people with conduct disorder. They tend to be difficult and negative. They generally lack regard for other people’s rights or feelings.

What Causes Disruptive Behavior Disorders?

The causes of disruptive behavior disorders are unknown. But the disorders are thought to spring from different factors working together:

Heredity. Children with disruptive behavior disorders often have parents with mental health disorders, including

  • Substance abuse.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
  • A mood disorder.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Antisocial personality disorder.

However, affected children have also been known to come from healthy families that function well.

Environment. There is an increased risk for disruptive behavior disorders among children who were:

  • Rejected by their mothers as infants.
  • Separated from their parents.
  • Recipients of poor foster care.
  • Physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or neglected.

In addition, children who have lived in poverty, or witnessed domestic violence or substance abuse, are at a greater risk for developing the disorders.

Physical. There is a greater risk for developing disruptive behavior disorders among children who:

  • Had low birth weight.
  • Have suffered neurological damage.

Psychological. Children who have suffered from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are at a higher risk for developing disruptive behavior disorders.

Approximately one-third to one-half of all children with ADHD may have coexisting oppositional defiant disorder. Conduct disorder may occur in 25 percent of children and 45 percent of adolescents with ADHD.

How are Disruptive Behavior Disorders Diagnosed?

Disruptive behavior disorders can be difficult to diagnose. This is because children and adolescents living with anxiety, depression, chronic stress and other conditions may act out in ways that seem like a disruptive behavior disorder. These behaviors may be associated with another condition. A licensed practitioner will completely review your child’s symptoms to determine his or her diagnosis. 

How are Disruptive Behavior Disorders Treated?

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
  • Using anger cues as signals to initiate various coping strategies
  • Providing positive reinforcement to improve self-control

If a child has a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, it may be decided to place him in a special classroom set up for more intensive behavior management.

When Should You Seek Help for Disruptive Behavior Disorders?

Children with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder are challenging to live with. Parents need to understand that they do not have to deal with their ODD/CD child alone.

Interventions such as parent training at home and behavioral support in the school can make a difference. Parents should not hesitate to ask for assistance from a mental health professional.