It is not uncommon for children and teens to act out, especially while learning about boundaries and communication.
According to MentalHealth.gov, a behavioral disorder involves “a pattern of disruptive behaviors in children that lasts for at least six months and causes problems in school, at home, and in social situations.”
What is a behavior disorder?
BetterHealth lists the most common types of disruptive behavior disorders as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). Children with ODD show a disregard for social norms and rules, while more extreme aggression, destructive conduct, violation of rules and norms and deceitfulness would describe children with (CD) conduct disorder.
The types of behavior involved might include:
- Inattention or hyperactivity
In older children, these disorders might also lead to:
- Drug use
- Criminal activity
One in ten children under the age of 12 years are thought to have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), with boys outnumbering girls by two to one. More than one quarter of children with autism spectrum disorder also have disruptive behavior disorders.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder:
- Quick to anger or annoyance (and frequent)
- Defiant, refusing to follow rules or instructions
- Excessively resentful
- Purposely annoying or harassing others
- Placing blame on others for their own mistakes or negative choices
You can learn more about oppositional defiant disorder at the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry website.
- Severely breaking major household (or societal) rules, like running away, staying out past curfew (when told not to), or skipping school
- Aggression, including bullying, fighting, or animal cruelty
- Purposely damaging property or stealing
You can read more information about conduct disorder from Stanford Children’s Health.
How Can I Help My Child if I Suspect a Behavior Disorder?
While there is yet no proven cause of behavior disorders, theories are that a child’s genetics and environment contribute to both ODD and CD. Therapy is highly recommended to protect your child and others. Positive parenting strategies and modeling will help build your child’s esteem, healthy relationship bonds and examples of showing care and respect to all living beings.
Cognitive-based therapy can strengthen impulse control and teach problem solving, communication and relating skills. Family therapy can create lasting change for everyone by understanding the child’s behavior in the context of group dynamics, as well as building communication skills for everyone.
The sooner you find a mental health professional for your child and your family, the better supported you all will be. Often times, prolonged lack of treatment results in the need for more interventions than in children who receive help sooner, so your willingness will make the difference.