How can a conduct disorder in children be treated?

Written by: Dr Debora Elijah
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Children with a conduct disorder often have difficulty following rules and display socially destructive and aggressive behaviour that at times can violate and hurt others around them. An individual with this disorder might typically look as though they're a strong and confident child, but in reality, they probably feel quite the opposite inside and mistakenly perceive people around them as threatening.


Dr Debora Elijah, an expert cognitive neuropsychologist who practises at the Elijah Social Cognitive Skills Centre in North London, gives us a quick overview of this disorder and explains how she can help.



What is a conduct disorder?

A conduct disorder is specifically a mental disorder which is usually diagnosed in childhood and adolescence. It is a persistent and repetitive pattern of behaviour, which is disruptive and violent, as well as finding it difficult to follow norms and rules.


What causes a conduct disorder?

The exact cause of conduct disorder is not known, but many experts believe that a combination of psychological, biological, genetic, environmental and social factors play a role.


What are the symptoms of a conduct disorder?

Children with a conduct disorder can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms often appear similar to those of other conditions, such as ADHD. The main symptoms of conduct disorder are:

  • Not following rules
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Aggressive behaviour


Can adults be diagnosed with a conduct disorder?

Yes, however, it is less common as symptoms often emerge in childhood or adolescence.


How common are conduct disorders?

Children with conduct disorder represent a small but significant minority whose mental health is often ignored or unrecognised. It is estimated that between 1-4% of children have a conduct disorder.


How can a conduct disorder be treated?

We can offer PROSCIG© intervention; a program built on the basis of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Spence’s theoretical framework. The program is unique because it creates new strategies for social problem-solving situations and follows three models – social perception, social solving problems and self-regulation.


Through this programme, we help create awareness by targeting specific behaviours and help show the patient how their negative behaviour impacts others and themselves. We also work with the whole family network, in a dynamic and holistic way.


We often see more improvement in conduct disorder when the patient combines PROSCIG ©, medication and followed with commitment and support from the whole family. This improvement allows the child to transition to society slowly following norms and rules.


If you believe your child may have a conduct disorder, do not hesitate to book an appointment at Dr Elijah’s centre now.

By Dr Debora Elijah

Professor Dr Debora Elijah is a highly esteemed cognitive neuropsychologist, practising privately at the Elijah Social Cognitive Skills Centre in North London. Dr Elijah attends to a range of age groups from 20 months old to young adults, specialising in building social communication skills, ASD, ADHD, self-regulation and anxiety. She is renowned for her holistic approach, treating everyone as an individual, offering treatment that is tailored specifically to that individual.

Dr Elijah graduated with a degree in neuropsychology from University Louvain La Nueve before studying and completing her PhD in Clinical Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology and Educational Psychology at Fernando Pessoa University. She was trained by Theo Peeters, a Belgian neurolinguist at the Centre for Training in Autism in Antwerp, Belgium. In Antwerp, she was the Joint Director of Tikvatenu, a centre for social communication skills. She also spent time in Brazil conducting research into structured and non-structured environments for autistic children and children with communication disorders, which was supported by the Brazilian Government. At the same time, she was a founder of CIAPEMA, a centre of research and intervention for young high functioning children with autism and related communication disorders.
She was also a lead researcher in the Process Cognitive Psychology group at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio Grande do Sul.

Dr Elijah returned to the UK in 2000 and has since worked in her own private practice and for two different charities. She developed a programme called PROSCIG©​, an intervention programme dealing with social perception, self-regulation and social problem-solving. She also works at Harley Street Family Centre as a cognitive neuropsychologist and HCPC registered educational consultant. 

Her work has been globally recognised and she has appeared in numerous news articles. Her book The Social Cognitive Mind in Promoting Psychosocial Competences in the Peer Group was published in Portugal in 2014. Dr Elijah also received special mention in the book Autism: How To Raise A Happy Autistic Child by award-winning The Times journalist Jessie Hewitson.

Dr Elijah was appointed as Professor in 2020 of Autism Spectrum and Alternative Communication, as well as being a social sciences coordinator, delivering lectures in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Increased Alternative Communication Module at the Fernando Pessoa University.

The graduatecourse at The Fernando Pessoa University enables trainees to deepen and practice specific knowledge, allowing the development of competencies that favour effective and quality care to this population and their families, according to the international guidelines of evidence-based practice.

Registration number: PYL32792

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