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Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Children with disruptive behavior disorders may be dismissive or defiant of peers or authority figures, including parents, teachers or coaches. In many cases, this involves not listening, “acting out,” or intentionally breaking a rule or challenging authority. In some cases, the behavior can lead to a child being physically aggressive towards others.

What are disruptive behavior disorders?

Disruptive behavior disorders is a broad term for patterns of behavior that show indifference, defiance or hostility towards peers or people in authority positions. Children with disruptive behavior disorders often challenge rules, ignore directions or act out in defiance of authority. Some children with disruptive behavior disorders may even become physically aggressive towards others.

Symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders

Symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders include:

  • Ignoring instructions
  • Intentionally breaking rules
  • Arguing/talking back
  • Lying
  • Lacking respect for other people’s space or personal belongings
  • Aggression towards others, or towards animals
  • Having trouble controlling their temper, and lashing out in anger

Most children at some point in their childhood will display these symptoms, but for children with disruptive behavior disorders, these symptoms have an impact on their daily life. Often, children with disruptive behavior disorders find themselves on the receiving end of disciplinary action at school, or get into fights frequently with peers.

How are disruptive behavior disorders treated?

The first step in getting treatment for a disruptive behavior disorder is to seek an evaluation from a licensed healthcare provider trained in pediatric behavioral health. Because the symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders can mirror some of the same symptoms of other mental health conditions, including depression and substance abuse, it’s important to consult a provider trained to discern between these conditions.

The treatment plan your provider recommends will be specific to your child’s age, history and needs. Treatment may include therapy, which may include strategies for anger management. Parents may also be given support and guidance for parenting techniques to try to modify a child’s behavior, or modify their own behavior and how they respond to a child’s defiant behavior.

How are disruptive behavior disorders prevented?

While there is no one reason a child may develop a disruptive behavior disorder, it is thought that the following factors may play a role:

  • Home life – Does the child have a strong parental support system at home? Were they neglected?
  • Abuse – Does the child come from a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect?
  • Family history – Does the child come from a family with a history of mental illness?
  • Medical history – Does the child have other medical conditions?