Conduct disorder

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Jun 27;5(1):43. doi: 10.1038/s41572-019-0095-y.


Conduct disorder (CD) is a common and highly impairing psychiatric disorder that usually emerges in childhood or adolescence and is characterized by severe antisocial and aggressive behaviour. It frequently co-occurs with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and often leads to antisocial personality disorder in adulthood. CD affects ~3% of school-aged children and is twice as prevalent in males than in females. This disorder can be subtyped according to age at onset (childhood-onset versus adolescent-onset) and the presence or absence of callous-unemotional traits (deficits in empathy and guilt). The aetiology of CD is complex, with contributions of both genetic and environmental risk factors and different forms of interplay among the two (gene-environment interaction and correlation). In addition, CD is associated with neurocognitive impairments; smaller grey matter volume in limbic regions such as the amygdala, insula and orbitofrontal cortex, and functional abnormalities in overlapping brain circuits responsible for emotion processing, emotion regulation and reinforcement-based decision-making have been reported. Lower hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic reactivity to stress has also been reported. Management of CD primarily involves parent-based or family-based psychosocial interventions, although stimulants and atypical antipsychotics are sometimes used, especially in individuals with comorbid ADHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conduct Disorder / drug therapy
  • Conduct Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mental Disorders
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors