Conduct disorder  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Conduct disorder is a psychiatric category marked by a pattern of repetitive behavior wherein the rights of others or social norms are violated.

Symptoms include verbal and physical aggression, cruel behavior toward people and pets, destructive behavior, lying, truancy, vandalism, and stealing.

Conduct disorder is a major public health problem because youth with conduct disorder not only inflict serious physical and psychological harm on others, but they are at greatly increased risk for incarceration, injury, depression, substance abuse, and death by homicide and suicide. After the age of 18, a conduct disorder may develop into antisocial personality disorder, which is related to psychopathy. Depressive conduct disorder is a combination of Conduct disorder with persistent and marked depression of mood with symptoms such as loss of interest, hopelessness, disturbances in sleep patterns and altered appetite.



At one time or another most children and adolescents act out or do things that are destructive or troublesome to themselves or others as coping. Every teenager has a coping method; only some of the methods are troublesome or destructive. It is indicative of conduct disorder only if such behavior persists. This disorder is much more common among boys than girls. As many as 50% of parents of 4- to 6-year-old children report that their child has exhibited some such behavior, but most such children show a decrease in antisocial behavior within the next couple of years.

Those in whom this behavior persists may be candidates for psychological help. It is estimated that 5% of children show serious conduct problems, being described as impulsive, overactive, and aggressive and engaging in delinquent behavior. Some motives for such behavior are genetic inheritance of a difficult temperament, ineffective parenting, and living in a neighborhood in which violence is common. There is a lack of consensus on what actually works, despite considerable efforts made to help children with conduct disorders.

A closely linked behavior is juvenile delinquency. This term refers to an adolescent's tendency to break the law or to engage in illicit behavior, a broad concept that ranges from littering to murder. According to U.S. government statistics, eight of ten cases of juvenile delinquency involve males. However, in the last two decades there has been a greater increase in female than male delinquency.

Juvenile delinquency has been found to vary among cultures. Delinquency rates among minority groups and lower-socioeconomic-status-youth are especially high in proportion to the overall population of these groups. Some suggested causes of delinquency are heredity, identity problems, community influences, and family experiences.

Although delinquency is less exclusively a phenomenon of lower socioeconomic status than it has been in the past, some characteristics of lower-socioeconomic-class cultures may promote delinquency. It is a complex problem, but psychologists have found factors which may predict whether a youth is likely to turn violent. Violent youths are overwhelmingly male and driven by feelings of powerlessness. Ill-directed drives for power often motivate youth especially toward acts of violence.

Behavioral models

Behavioral models of conduct disorder focus on the function of early childhood conduct problems. In essence, these models represent a microsocial model of the development of conduct disorder. Using a matching law model of reinforcement, these models have shown that moment to moment success with conflict tactics as being either prosocial or antisocial, predict future conduct problems and arrest rates

Lack of empathy

Some scholars have proposed that lack of empathy and empathic concern (callous disregard for the welfare of others) is an important risk factor for conduct disorder.

Developmental psychologists and social neuroscientists have hypothesized that empathy and sympathetic concern for others are essential factors inhibiting aggression toward others.

The propensity for aggressive behavior has been hypothesized to reflect a blunted empathic response to the suffering of others. Such a lack of empathy in aggressive individuals may be a consequence of a failure to be aroused by the distress of others. Similarly, it has been suggested that aggressive behavior arises from abnormal processing of affective information, resulting in a deficiency in experiencing fear, empathy, and guilt, which in normally developing individuals inhibits the acting out of violent impulses.

Recently, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study conducted by neuroscientist Jean Decety and colleagues at the University of Chicago reported that youth with aggressive conduct disorder (who have psychopathic tendencies) have a different hemodynamic brain response when confronted with empathy-eliciting stimuli. In the study, researchers compared 16- to 18-year-old boys with aggressive conduct disorder to a control group of adolescent boys with no unusual signs of aggression.

The youth with the conduct disorder had exhibited disruptive behavior such as starting a fight, using a weapon and stealing after confronting a victim. The youth were tested with fMRI while looking at video clips in which people endured pain accidentally, such as when a heavy bowl was dropped on their hands, and intentionally, such as when a person stepped on another's foot. Results show that the aggressive youth activated the neural circuits underpinning pain processing to the same extent, and in some cases, even more so than the control participants without conduct disorder.

However, aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain. Unlike the control group, the youth with conduct disorder did not activate the areas of the brain involved in understanding social interaction and moral reasoning (i.e., the paracingulate cortex and temporoparietal junction).

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Conduct disorder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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