Teenage Conduct Disorder

All teenagers will act up or misbehave at some point or another. Rebellion and testing boundaries can be a normal part of maturing and reaching adulthood. In some cases though, rebellion and disruptive behavior can signal a problem that stretches beyond the usual teenage antics. Up to 16 percent of all teenagers have conduct disorder, a type of mental illness, according to WebMD. Teenagers with conduct disorder exhibit extremely aggressive behavior that puts themselves and others at risk.

Signs of Conduct Disorder

Teenagers with conduct disorder consistently display behavior that violates the rights of other people and shows disregard for social rules, according to Mental Health America. Bullying, threats to other people, fighting and using weapons are commons symptoms of conduct disorder. Teenagers may also destroy or vandalize property, lie persistently and shoplift. A complete disregard for rules, such as skipping school and running away from home, is another common sign of conduct disorder. Teenagers with the disorder tend not to show any remorse for their actions.

Biological Causes

In some instances, conduct disorder is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in a teenager’s brain. The imbalance can occur if the teenager suffers a brain injury or a birth defect. Conduct disorder may also be connected to other mental illnesses, such as depression, ADHD or anxiety, according to WebMD. The disease may also have a genetic cause and may be inherited from from a parent who suffers from another mental disorder, such as depression or a personality disorder.

Environmental Causes

A troubled family life can also lead to the development of conduct disorder in some teenagers. Teenagers who have suffered child abuse, have a parent who abuses drugs or have undergone a familial conflict are more likely to develop the disorder, according to Medline Plus. Poverty and frustration with their social status may cause some teenagers to display signs of conduct disorder.


Treating a child with conduct disorder can prove difficult, particularly if the child or his parents resist the treatment. A lot of teenagers with the disorder may have a distrust of adults, which can make it hard for a therapist to diagnose and assess the condition. If a teenager does agree to work with a therapist, he may undergo cognitive behavior therapy, which will help him learn to cope and respond to certain situations properly. Some teenagers and their parents may need family therapy, which will help improve familial communications. Parents themselves can undergo therapy to learn how to manage and control their teenager’s behavior.


While many teenagers with conduct disorder grow up to become productive adults, according to Mental Health America, those who do not receive treatment or do not recuperate may be at risk for developing other personality and mood disorders as adults. Untreated teenagers may become more dependent on drugs or alcohol as adults. The behaviors associated with conduct disorder also put a teenager at risk if no one steps in. Violent actions can lead to serious injuries or legal problems. Risky sexual behavior can lead to disease or an unwanted pregnancy.



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