Introduction to ADHD and Conduct Disorder
Children with ADHD demonstrate impulsive behavior and have difficulties paying attention. These types of behavior can be attributed to an organic chemical imbalance in the brain and can be treated with medication. Sometimes children selectively choose not to listen to others and behave with specific intent to defy or rebel. This intent to defy is one symptom of Conduct disorder. When examining ongoing disruptive behavior, it is important to determine whether or not a child’s negative behavior is attributed to inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity or rebellious defiance, so that it can be treated appropriately. It can often be difficult to understand the cause of negative behaviors in children. This article will provide insight regarding the relationship between ADHD and Conduct disorder.
Does my child have ADHD or a Conduct Disorder?
The behavior of a child with ADHD may be similar to a child with Conduct disorder. However, the cause or reason for the behavior may be different. For example, a 10 year-old boy may throw a pencil across the room. A child with ADHD may have thrown the pencil out of impulse because they were bored. The child with Conduct disorder may have thrown the pencil at another student because this other student received positive attention from the teacher. Behaviors associated with ADHD are organic in nature and can be treated with medication and behavioral management. Conduct disorder is not due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and cannot be treated with medication. Rather, these disorders are often caused by maladaptive character development by inconsistent parenting, innate personality characteristics, and exposure to traumatic life experiences. Intensive behavioral therapy can be helpful in treating conduct disorders.
What does it mean to have ADHD and Conduct Disorder?
Children with ADHD are often corrected by adults and get into trouble frequently. They are sometimes labeled as a “bad” kid and are often exposed to social ridicule, which can be traumatic for them. Children with ADHD demonstrate challenging behaviors that often lead to parent/child conflict and parental conflict. Therefore ADHD is often a contributing factor to Conduct disorder. However, a child may have developed ADHD and Conduct disorder exclusive of one another. For example, a genetic predisposition to ADHD may be present in a child who may also have poor formation of character due to poor parental modeling or lack of development of values and social norms. When a child has both ADHD and/or Conduct disorder, it can be difficult to tell what the cause of the behavior is. Is the behavior related to impulsivity/inattention, or is it due to opposition or defiance? The more one understands the diagnoses, the better one can differentiate between causes of behaviors.
The prognosis of a child with both ADHD and Conduct disorder is often guarded. It is best to treat the symptoms of ADHD, so that the child can benefit from behavioral therapy sessions and learn to make better choices. Treating ADHD first can also help in determining the cause of behavior if inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are reduced. If the child's behavior improves when these symptoms are reduced he or she is less likely to have Conduct disorder.