A new study examined evidence from research conducted around the world and estimated the prevalence of conduct disorder in school-aged children to be around 3%, making it the primary reason for referral to child and adolescent mental health services.
Although distinct, the evidence is paradoxical because it is one of the least generally recognized or studied psychiatric disorders, and funding for research into it falls significantly behind that of many other childhood disorders.
What is Conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder is a widespread and severely debilitating psychiatric condition that typically manifests itself in childhood or adolescence and is characterized by significant antisocial and violent behaviours, such as physical aggressiveness, stealing, property damage, and violation of others’ rights. According to a recent study co-authored by an LSU psychology professor, much better awareness, improved diagnosis, and increased treatment are all required to lessen the burden on society of the severe behavioural disease known as conduct disorder.
Concerted effort required to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Conduct disorder
“There needs to be a concerted effort to improve the diagnosis and treatment of children and teenagers with conduct disorder by investing in training in evidence-based treatments for this condition and ensuring that families can access child and adolescent mental health services. At LSU, we provide diagnostic services to the community for children and adolescents with serious behaviour problems ages 6 to 17 through our Psychological Services Centre, run by the LSU Department of Psychology,” said co-author Paul Frick, LSU Department of Psychology professor.
The study examined data from research conducted all around the world and estimated the prevalence of conduct disorder in school-aged children to be around 3%, and it is a leading reason for referral to child and adolescent mental health services. Despite this, it is one of the least generally recognized or studied psychiatric illnesses, with funding for study considerably behind that of many other paediatric disorders.
Conduct disorder associated with high individual, societal and economic burden
According to the data, conduct disorder is associated with an extremely high individual, societal, and economic burden. It has a seven-fold larger physical and personal impact than attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a far more well-known illness. While it is likely that children with ADHD will exhibit indicators of conduct disorder, very few will be recognized or treated for it. In addition, conduct disorder relates to a greater health burden than autism.
“Despite the fact that it is associated with a very high personal, familial, and societal burden, conduct disorder is under-recognized and frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated. Unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more difficult it is to treat. It truly exemplifies the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Also, many treatments that are being used in the community have not proven effective,” Frick said.
High physical and mental health burden due to Conduct disorder on patients and their families
This inability to address and treat conduct disorder in children and adolescents prompted the authors of the new Nature Reviews publication to advocate for increased awareness of the problem as well as additional money to better our understanding and ability to treat it. The study, which provides a full discussion of all aspects of conduct disorder, including its diagnosis, clinical care, and long-term impact, emphasizes the severe implications and adult outcomes that can arise if it is not properly recognized or treated. It demonstrates the significant physical and emotional health burden placed on patients and their families.
Conduct disorder relates to an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, alcohol, and substance misuse in youth. In adulthood, up to 50% of people with conduct disorder acquire antisocial or borderline personality disorder, as well as more significant criminal behaviours and gang membership.
According to the study, young individuals with conduct disorder are more likely to have children sooner, have more unwanted pregnancies, become dependent on benefits, become homeless, or even try suicide. Such habits are extremely harmful to an individual, their families, and society. Furthermore, those with conduct disorder have parenting issues, which typically means that their children are at a higher risk of getting conduct disorder, so initiating an intergenerational loop.
Correct diagnosis and management of Conduct Disorder possible
However, the researchers believe that with the right diagnosis and the help of child and adolescent mental health services, the disease can be managed. The study emphasizes the importance of teaching parents to better support their children with conduct disorder, as well as skill training for children and adolescents with the disorder to help them develop their social and problem-solving skills, as well as their capacity to regulate their emotions. According to Frick and his co-authors, these treatments can have a significant impact on the patient’s well-being and life chances.
Frick hopes that the research will draw much-needed attention to the identification and treatment of children with conduct disorder. Most people regard children with conduct disorder as “bad kids” and frequently fail to recognize the importance of mental health therapy. He hopes that the report emphasizes the societal implications of the disease, which necessitates additional financing for therapeutic research from both governmental and commercial sources.
Materials provided by Louisiana State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Graeme Fairchild, David J. Hawes, Paul J. Frick, William E. Copeland, Candice L. Odgers, Barbara Franke, Christine M. Freitag, Stephane A. De Brito. Conduct disorder. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 2019; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41572-019-0095-y
Louisiana State University. “Society pays heavy price for failure to diagnose and treat conduct disorder.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190628120508.htm>.
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