Train parents to manage conduct disorder

Living with conduct disorder can be very challenging for families.

Parents should be given specific training to support children who have conduct disorders, says new guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Conduct disorders are characterised by repeated and persistent misbehaviour which is much worse than would normally be expected in a child of that age. This may include stealing, fighting, vandalism and harming people or animals. Roughly five per cent of all children aged between five and 16 years are diagnosed with the condition. Conduct disorders are the most common reason for children to be referred to mental health services. Conduct disorders often coexist with other mental health conditions, most commonly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The new NICE guideline includes a number of recommendations to support healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and treat conduct disorders and antisocial behaviour. It recommends that parents should be provided with training programmes specifically tailored for them. “Aspects of parenting have been repeatedly found to have a long-term association with antisocial behaviour”, says Professor Stephen Pilling of UCL, the facilitator of the Guideline Development Group. While Professor Pilling recognises that many parents do an excellent job in caring for a child with conduct disorder, he says it can be “incredibly challenging” for families of those with the condition.

The parent training programmes would be designed to provide parents with particular strategies for dealing with difficult children, and how to better manage their children’s behaviour going forward.

The guideline also focuses on more effective initial assessments for the condition, improving access to local services and child-focused initiatives, including group social and cognitive problem-solving programmes.

The NICE guidance on conduct disorder can be found on the Institute’s website:


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