Signs, Effects & Symptoms of Disruptive Behavior

Understanding the Signs of Disruptive Behavior Disorder

Understanding the signs of disruptive behavior disorder

Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) are a group of behavioral problems that are defined as disruptive because affected children cause disruptions with the people and activities around them. These disruptive behavior disorders include patterns of ongoing uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behaviors toward authority figures, which seriously impacts a child’s daily functioning. Additionally, the whole family suffers as they experience their child’s disruptive behaviors on a daily basis. As a parent of a child with DBD, you may feel helpless as to how to control your child’s behavior, how to appropriately respond, and how to restore peace to the household. The most common types of disruptive behavior disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder. The main difference between these two disorders is the severity of the symptoms, as conduct disorder is considered as the more serious of the two.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is defined by a recurrent pattern of negative, defiant, hostile, and disobedient behaviors towards parents and other authority figures that has lasted for six months or longer. Children with ODD often lose their temper, arguing constantly with adults over rules or requests. They may also become easily annoyed by other people and have a tendency to blame others for their mistakes or misbehavior. While all children are capable of displaying these behaviors at some point, children who have ODD display these behaviors more often than others their age. These behaviors severely impact the social, occupational, or academic functioning of the child.

Conduct disorder (CD), often referred to as “delinquency”, is the more serious of the disruptive behavior disorders because it involves a higher level of cruelty. Children and teens who have CD may show aggression toward other people and animals, willfully destroying property, stealing, and lying. It’s thought that disruptive behavior disorders exist along a spectrum and oppositional defiant disorder may progress into CD.

Children who are thought to have ODD or CD can learn more positive behaviors and how to appropriately react to life situations with proper treatment and care. The sooner therapy is begun, the brighter the outlook.


Statistics for disruptive behavior disorder

The most common types of disruptive behavior disorder are oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder, both of which are common childhood disorders. It’s estimated that ODD occurs in between 2% and 16% of the youth, depending upon the population. Conduct disorder is more common in younger boys, ranging from 6% to 9% of the male child population in the United States.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & risk factors for disruptive behavior disorder

The causes for disruptive behavior disorders are thought to be a mixture of different factors working together. Some of the common risk factors include:

Physical: Children who were born of low birth weight or those who have suffered neurological damage are at a greater risk for developing disruptive behavior disorders. Children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk for developing disruptive behavior disorders.

Environmental: Children who were rejected by their mothers as infants, separated from their parents, or obtained poor foster care are at an increased risk for DBDs. Additionally, children who were physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or neglected are at higher risk for developing these disorders later in childhood. Children who lived in poverty or witnessed domestic violence or substance abuse are also at a greater risk for developing the disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Maternal stress and anxiety

Protective Factors:

  • Ability to express feelings
  • Positive relationship with grandparents


Symptoms of disruptive behavior disorder

The symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders will vary depending on the type of disruptive behavioral disorder the child has – oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. Symptoms will also depend upon each child’s individual temperament, social skills, and coping mechanisms. The most common symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Revenge-seeking behaviors
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Conniving
  • Aggressive and cruel toward people and animals
  • Deliberately intimidates other people
  • Makes thoughtful attempts to annoy others
  • Bullying
  • Willful destruction of property
  • Sociopathic tendencies that cause serious harm to others
  • Often loses temper with others
  • Constantly argues with adults
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with requests or rules
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes
  • Deliberately annoys other people

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Anger
  • Being spiteful and vindictive
  • Resentfulness
  • Frightens and alienates friends and family
  • Intensely rigid and touchy
  • Lack of remorse
  • Easily annoyed
  • Loneliness
  • Feelings as though they have nothing to lose


Effects disruptive behavior disorder can have

Without properly addressing the disruptive behavior problems and getting effective treatment, children and teens who have conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder will eventually begin to face long-term consequences. The effects of untreated and undiagnosed disruptive behavioral disorders can include:

  • Legal problems
  • Incarceration
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Lack of employment
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Development of antisocial personality disorder
  • Social isolation
  • Troubled family relationships

Co-Occurring Disorders

Disruptive behavior disorder & co-occurring disorders

Individuals with a disruptive behavior disorder may also be diagnosed with another type of behavioral health disorder. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorder
  • Substance abuse

Highland not only helped my child but also helped me. They helped me deal with my guilt, and that is very freeing.

– Sarah M.