Disruptive behavioral disorders ranges from ADHD, to more serious disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. As many as 18% of children have a diagnosis for mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders. It tends to be more common in boys than in girls, however these disorders can affect both, with a peak around late childhood and the early teenage years.

It’s important to realize that all children will have temper tantrums or be upset when they don’t get their way at some point, but a true disruptive disorder will often lead to very extreme or excessive outbursts or misbehavior; to the point of severely impacting the child’s social or educational functioning, as well as impacting their parents, siblings, other family members or peers in an adverse way, consistently.

These disorders are often broken down into several parts, but generally these disorders are characterized by behavior such as:

Uncooperative behavior, or extreme defiance to authority.

Hostility towards parents, other family members, teachers, and anyone else the child may view as an authority figure. These children may also act out towards peers.

Refusal to follow rules, even when reasonable expectations are set by parents or other authority figures.

Not wanting too, or not being able to take accountability for their actions, including excessive blaming of others for their behavior and mistakes.

Acting out in anger, or in spiteful or vindictive ways.

Poor impulse control and/or lack of remorse for how their actions impact others.

What causes these disorders?

There are a variety of environmental, psychological, and hereditary factors that may lead to disruptive behavioral disorders, although for the most part, the causes are unknown. Nonetheless, risk factors for these disorders are often:

Hereditary. Many children who suffer from these disorders have parents or other family members who may suffer from substance abuse, mood disorders, ADD/ADHD, personality disorders and more. However, it is important to realize that they can impact children from healthy, happy families as well.

Environmental. Many children who have these disruptive behavioral disorders were victims of a poor environment or upbringing (but not all.) Children who were separated from their parents, suffered any type of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual,) or neglect, lack of adequate parental or other adult supervision, or who were/are recipients of poor foster care are at an increased risk.

Physical and/or Psychological Factors. Developmental delays, low birth weight, and children who may have suffered from neurological damage, as well as children who may have already been diagnosed with ADHD, are at an increased risk for developing a disruptive behavioral disorder.

How are disruptive behavior disorders treated?

Treatments for these disorders will depend on the age and symptoms your child is displaying.

For younger children under the age of 10, interventions that help parents successfully manage their child’s behavior are often very effective. Talk to your doctor or child psychiatrist for more tips and techniques for managing your child’s behavior.

As kids get older, and understand their own emotional and physical cues, they can benefit from talking with a mental health professional, and learn more about how best to cope when they are feeling as though they are about to act out. Adult-implemented positive reinforcement strategies, distraction, constructive activities, and more are often effective once the child has the capacity to understand their own behavioral cues that may lead to an outburst.

When to seek help:

Children with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder are challenging to live with, but as a parent, you need to understand that you do not have to deal with disruptive behavioral disorders alone. There is hope for children who may be suffering from these disorders.
Call our office to set up an appointment if you have any further questions or concerns about your child’s behavior. Together, we can help your child live a more full and happy life with proper treatment techniques and strategies that may work for their individual needs, and help restore peace to your family.