Diagnosis of Conduct Disorder

Children suspected of having Conduct Disorder should be brought to a mental health professional who specializes in childhood disorders so that proper assessment and diagnosis can occur. Children's medical, developmental, psychological, and social history will be reviewed as a part of the assessment process, so as to put the behavioral symptoms into perspective. Children's behavioral and emotional functioning skills are also assessed across a variety of settings with checklists (completed by children, parents, and teachers) and/or direct observation in classroom and home settings.

The assessing clinician may choose from a variety of structured interviews, parent and teacher behavior checklists, and formal tests of intellectual functioning and academic skills as part of the diagnostic process. Some of the tests that might be chosen include:

Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DICA)

The DICA is a semi-structured interview designed to determine whether children or adolescents currently have (or have ever had) symptoms consistent with DSM diagnoses such as Conduct Disorder. There are separate versions of this interview for children, adolescents, and parents.

Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)

The CBCL is a widely used paper and pencil test that comes in different versions appropriate to varying age groups and rater perspectives. For example, there are different forms of the CBCL for teachers and for parents. This scale yields scores measuring Aggressive Behavior, Anxiety/Depression, Attention Problems, Delinquent Behavior, Social Problems, Somatic Complaints, Thought Problems, and Social Withdrawal.

Connors Continuous Performance Test (CPT)

The CCPT is used to assess children's ability to sustain attention (i.e., to continuously focus on a single task) and also provides measurements of children's tendency towards impulsiveness. During the test, children watch a computer screen upon which various symbols (e.g., numbers and letters) and sounds are presented. They respond to the presence of particular symbols and sounds by pressing buttons and by clicking with the computer's mouse.