Types of Child Behavior Disorders

Young children might sometimes throw tantrums when upset, while preschoolers, and especially teens, might sometimes talk back to adults. Occasional bad behavior is just a normal part of growing up, notes the Kelty Mental Health website 2. However, when bad behavior becomes the norm for a long period of time, it can indicate a behavioral disorder. There are two types of behavior disorders, typically referred to as disruptive behavioral disorder: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder 23. Behaviors typical of disruptive behavior disorders can closely resemble attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — particularly where impulsivity and hyperactivity are involved — but ADHD, ODD, and CD are considered separate conditions that can occur independently, according to HealthyChildren.org 34.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common childhood disorder and can continue through adolescence and adulthood, according to the National Institute of Mental Health 4. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. About one-third of all children with ADHD have coexisting ODD, and up to one-quarter have coexisting CD, according to HealthyChildren.org.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with oppositional defiant disorder are aggressive and resistant to rules. A child struggling with ODD often does things to intentionally annoy others, and often directs much of his defiance at authority figures. However, he can also direct his defiance toward siblings and peers. He might refuse to comply with rules and bully others. This extreme negative behavior typically lasts for a long time. Kelty Mental Health reports that more boys than girls have this disorder before puberty 2. Symptoms are usually evident before 8 years of age, but ODD begins slowly and symptoms intensify gradually. After puberty, the occurrence is more equal between genders.

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is more serious and so are its symptoms, which include:

  • aggression against people or animals
  • bullying
  • starting fights
  • physical harm to people
  • animals or property
  • lying
  • stealing,
  • breaking rules

Symptoms of CD are usually present between middle childhood and adolescence. While symptoms can go away or lesson by adulthood, sometimes CD develops into an adult form called antisocial personality disorder. Children with conduct disorder frequently have difficulty understanding how others think and feel and as a result, they find it hard to talk to others, according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario 1. Children with CD might not know how to form bonds or friendships, feeling sad, angry and frustrated because of this detachment. Because their language skills are often impaired as well, children with conduct disorder have difficulty using their words to express feelings, so they act out instead. Conduct disorder is occasionally a more serious and later phase of ODD. Kelty Mental Health reports that CD is more common in boys than girls 2.

Treatment Options

ADHD symptoms often appear between the ages of 3 and 6. Treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning -- and can include medication and various types of psychotherapy, according tot he National Institute of Mental Health 4. Although some children struggle with ODD their entire lives, many with symptoms of this behavioral disorder grow past it. Once a medical professional diagnoses ODD, cognitive behavioral therapy is typically used to help the child become aware of the patterns of thought that fuel the negative behaviors, and to teach him how to modify that thinking. Social skills training and family therapy are also used to treat ODD. Conduct disorder is more difficult to treat, and tends to worsen as a child matures.