Disruptive behavior exhibited by children and adolescents can qualify for a diagnosis if the behaviors are significant enough to seriously interfere with functioning at home, at school or in the community. These behaviors easily draw the attention of parents, teachers, and authority figures (like police). ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is officially classified as a type of disruptive behavior. The other two major diagnostic categories are a Conduct Disorder, and an Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
A Conduct Disorder is a type of disruptive behavior characterized by a pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major social norms appropriate to a child's age are repeatedly violated. Rules or laws are openly not followed, and individuals with this disorder are aware that they are acting against established, socially acceptable limits. This is different from a person who does not know the rules of acceptable behavior, or a person who exhibits these behaviors due to some other disorder.
Disruptive behavior of this disorder falls in to four main categories: aggressive behavior that causes or threatens harm to other people or animals, behavior that causes property damage or loss, behavior involving deceit or theft, and serious violations of rules. Adults with these behaviors are often diagnosed as having an Antisocial Personality Disorder (formerly a Sociopath).
An Oppositional Defiant Disorder is disruptive behavior characterized by a pattern of negative, hostile, and defiant behavior, exhibited when interacting with others. This may be with peers, parents or siblings. or with people at school or other activities. These behaviors will occur much more frequently than usually seen in others of comparable age and development, and significantly interfere with social, academic or work functioning. These behaviors are usually exhibited at home, but may not be observed at school or elsewhere. They are most often seen when the child or adolescent is interacting with someone they know. These individuals usually do not view themselves as defiant, and justify their behavior as a reaction to unreasonable demands or circumstances. There is usually not the more serious physical aggression seen in a Conduct Disorder. This disorder may occur with the presence of other disorders.
Children and adolescents with a Conduct Disorder usually become quickly involved with serious authority problems and consequences. School suspensions and expulsion are likely to occur. Involvement with social service agencies, at the request of parents, schools or neighbors, is common. Behavior having consequences of drawing the attention and involvement of law enforcement and the legal system are also common with this condition. Probation officers, social service personnel, and school behavior compliance staff are typically working with these individuals. Individual and family therapy are usually necessary (often required) components of trying to intervene with these children and adolescents.
Individuals with an Oppositional Defiant Disorder draw attention primarily from their parents or other caretakers. Family or parent-child conflict is readily identifiable, although attribution of blame or responsibility is often debated. Family therapy is most often recommended for these cases, with individual therapy for the child or adolescent, and parenting instruction being frequent services also recommended.
If your child or adolescent has signs of having one of these disruptive behavior disorders, you can talk to a professional about what to do and how to get help. You may have already considered speaking with their school staff about counseling resources in your area. Talking to your child's pediatrician is another a good way to get a referral to a competent psychologist, social worker or child psychiatrist. Another great source for referrals is your health insurance company. Many have on-line lists of professionals in their network of providers, or have a phone number on your insurance card to consult for referral sources. If you live in southeast Massachusetts, in Plymouth county, Cranberry Counseling, P.C. in Marshfield would be more than happy to answer your questions and to make an appointment to help diagnose and start a treatment plan for your child or adolescent and your family. See the Cranberry Counseling page of this web site for more information, or use the Contact Us form.