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Disruptive Behavior Problems

By Karen Kleinschmidt ; Updated April 18, 2017
Disruptive behavior problems can be a sign of a deeper issue.

While many children and adolescents exhibit behavioral issues at various intervals during their development, disruptive behavior problems interrupt their ability to function at home, in school or out in the community. The two most common diagnoses for disruptive behavior problems are Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which may co-occur with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, according to the Mental Health Association of Westchester. Disruptive behaviors stemming from CD, ODD and ADHD include physical aggression, excessive temper tantrums and arguing as well as general defiance and resistance to authority figures, according to HealthyChildren.org. These behaviors generally intensify as children grow, leading to conflicted interactions with others.

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A child with ADHD may exhibit great difficulty controlling his impulses while a child with ODD or CD exhibits defiance and aggression in addition to impulsiveness. A look at the family history can help to determine your child's risk factors. Family members who have both ADHD and ODD or ADHD and CD; or those with a history of learning disorders, anxiety or depression; may be at an increased risk of developing ODD or CD, according to HealthyChildren.org. Chronic conflict or stress in the family as well as limited response to therapeutic measures can be a sign of ODD or CD. Consistent defiance, violation of consequences and outright refusal to cooperate may be cause for an evaluation from a mental health professional.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder occurs in children and adolescents, and a child with ODD may be at risk of developing Conduct Disorder, according to the Mental Health Association of Westchester. Excessive defiance at home and school, arguing with authority figures, the inability to take responsibility for his actions, a resentful attitude, revenge-seeking and frequent temper tantrums characterize this disorder. These behaviors may only be exhibited at home, causing additional frustration to parents.

Conduct Disorder

Occurring in older children and adolescents, a child with Conduct Disorder often has trouble reading social cues, expressing remorse or feeling empathy for others, and they generally think the actions of others are aggressive and respond by escalating the hostility, according to Mental Health America. Symptoms include physical aggression or threats to people or animals; intentional property damage; stealing; lying; and consistent, serious rule and social norm violations. Conduct disorder is diagnosed more often in boys than girls; the earlier it begins, the more persistent the difficulties, says Mental Health America.


It generally takes a team effort to help children with disruptive behavior problems succeed. Effective behavioral techniques include negotiating, setting goals that build upon each other, teaching him to recognize potential triggers as well as problem-solving to minimize or avoid aggressive outbursts. Stimulants that are used to treat ADHD may help those with co-occurring ODD or CD by decreasing aggression and improving socialization, and allowing them to open up and learn new skills, according to HealthyChildren.org. Parent training, behavioral therapy and family counseling are often initiated as a part of treatment.

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About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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