Early diagnosis of conduct disorder and other related difficulties is important to give your child a better chance for improvements and hope for the future.
Depending on the severity of the problem, the treatment can be offered across different settings, for instance at home or in educational and community settings.
The help offered will depend on the child’s development, age and circumstances.
Involving and supporting the family is very important. Focussing on strengths and identifying any specific problem areas for the young person, such as learning difficulties, can improve the outcomes for young people with conduct disorders.
Help for behavioural problems can involve supporting the young person to increase their positive social behaviours, and controlling their antisocial destructive behaviours.
It can be difficult for parents and carers when their child has oppositional or has conduct problems. You may fear your own child, and feel embarrassed, or even ashamed of your child’s situation. You may feel helpless and unsure how to manage it.
As a parent, it can be easy to ignore your child when they are being good, and only pay attention to them when they are behaving badly. Over time, the child learns that they only get attention when they are breaking rules. Most children, including teenagers, need a lot of attention from their parents and may be unsure how to get this. Perhaps surprisingly, they seem to prefer angry or critical attention to being ignored. It's easy to see how, over time, a ‘vicious cycle’ can be set up.
With children, it can help if discipline is fair and consistent and for parents/carers to agree on how to handle their child’s behaviour and offer positive praise and love. Understandably, this can be difficult to manage alone without the support of others, and many parents/carers require extra help.
Parenting groups can help you to access the support you need and share experiences with others who are experiencing a similar situation with their own children. These groups can offer training in helping support you in encouraging positive behaviour in your child.
Many young people with behavioural problems struggle at school and this can be a source of distress. School staff can help to focus on positive behaviours and reinforce work taking place at home and in the community.
Young people with behavioural problems often need help with social skills and school may be able to offer this. Some children need individual classroom support and an assessment of learning difficulties. When the problems are severe, some children may be placed in special educational placements or schools for their behavioural problems.
If the behavioural problems are severe and persistent or a conduct disorder is suspected, ask your GP for advice.
Antisocial behaviours are commonly seen in specialist services. If specialist help is needed, they will make a referral to your local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS). This specialist team will work together with you, school and other community groups to support you and your child.
Specialists can help to fully assess what is causing the problem and also to suggest practical ways of improving the difficult behaviour. They can also offer assessment and treatment of other conditions which can occur at the same time, such as depression, anxiety and hyperactivity.
The treatment may include social skills groups, behavioural therapy and talking therapy. These therapies can help the child to appropriately express themselves in different situations and manage their anger more effectively.