Difference Between Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder

It is common for children to show signs of change as they grow older. There can be both physical and mental changes.


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Physical changes are often noticed, but not everyone can notice mental changes the same way. However, mental changes are not as prevalent as physical changes.

Mental changes can sometimes manifest as disorders. Defiant disorder and conduct disorder are two of the most common disorders.

Key Takeaways

  1. Conduct disorder involves repetitive and persistent behavior that violates the basic rights of others, while Defiant disorder involves disobedient and hostile behavior towards authority figures.
  2. Children with conduct disorder may engage in criminal activity, while those with the defiant disorder may not.
  3. Conduct disorder is usually diagnosed before age 16, while Defiant disorder is diagnosed before age 8.

Defiant Disorder vs Conduct Disorder

The defiant disorder is a type of disobedience that children have towards people in authority, including parents, teachers, and strangers, with emotions like agitation and irritation. Conduct disorder is when a child is disobedient to anyone regardless of age, and the person is violent and aggressive.

Defiant Disorder vs Conduct Disorder

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Children afflicted with the defiant disorder exhibit rebellious behavior toward their elders. Children afflicted with defiant disorder dismiss everything that is said to them by their elders.

These types of behavior occur when children believe the elderly are trying to control their lives by imposing unnecessary rules and regulations, which makes them suspicious of them.

A child with a conduct disorder is also likely to show signs of disobedience.

However, their rebellious behavior is more directed towards the general rules imposed on everyone rather than just them.

Such rules are dismissed by children suffering from conduct disorders because they think they limit fun and adventure.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDefiant disorderConduct disorder
DefinitionDisobedience towards persons of authority such as parents, teachers, or even strangers.Disobedience towards absolutely anyone regardless of age such as siblings, friends, or even animals.
Prominent behaviorThe predominant emotions are vengefulness, agitation, and irritation.The predominant emotions are aggression and violence.
CausesGenetic reasons, an inadequate structure at home, and disagreements with elders are a few of the causes.  Parenting problems, traumas, and low intelligence are some of the most common causes.
SymptomsThe symptoms of defiant disorder include argumentative behavior towards elders, short tempers, and resentment towards others.Physical fights, damage to property, bullying, and stealing are among some of the symptoms exhibited by children with conduct disorder.
TreatmentCurrently, no medications are approved for its treatment. It is best treated through therapy.It is best to seek therapy. In addition, medications such as Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Lithium can also be used.

What is Defiant Disorder?

An uncooperative and defiant attitude toward authority figures on the part of a child characterizes the defiant disorder. Children with this disorder often have difficulty coping with their everyday lives.

Children may demonstrate defiance toward their parents or teachers by arguing, disobeying, or talking back.

The child may have defiant disorder if the child displays these behaviors for longer than six months.

Children may develop defiant disorders due to genetic factors, a lack of structure at home, or a disagreement with their elders.  

Children with defiant disorders usually show signs during preschool. An angry or irritable mood and argumentative or vindictive behavior are some of the symptoms displayed by these individuals.

There’s little chance your child will see his or her behavior as problematic. It is more likely that he or she will complain about unreasonable demands or blame others.

Child psychologists or child psychiatrists with experience in disruptive behavior problems may be able to help if a child shows signs of defiant disorder or if you have concerns about your ability to parent a challenging child.

As no medication is proven to cure this disorder, therapy is the only way to treat it.

What is Conduct Disorder?

An emotional and behavioral disorder characterized by repeated and persistent patterns of behavior in children is known as conduct disorder. Individuals with this disorder are unable to follow the rules.

A few other common problems include being empathic, respecting the rights of others, and acting in a socially acceptable manner. The problem is that they are often more ill-mannered than mentally ill. 

Many factors, including a cold-hearted attitude, past trauma, and damage to the brain, can cause conduct disorder.

In addition to aggression towards people and animals, damage to property, lies, theft, and dishonesty are common symptoms.

Children with conduct disorders can be challenging to treat. Treatment can be given in various settings depending on the severity of the behavior.

A child’s unwillingness to cooperate, fear of adults, and distrust of them add to the challenge of treatment.

Behavior therapy and psychotherapy are usually necessary to help a child express and control anger appropriately. For children with learning disabilities, special education may be required.

Medications such as Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Lithium may also be prescribed in some cases.

Children who receive early treatment have a much better chance of improving considerably and gaining a better chance at success in the future.

Main Differences Between Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder

  1. Both disorders involve disobedience; however, in defiant disorder, this rebellious behavior is directed towards elders, while in conduct disorder, it’s directed towards any rule imposed regardless of who imposed it.
  2. Disobedience is often accompanied by vengefulness, agitation, and irritation, whereas behavior disorders are characterized by aggression and violence.
  3. The defiant disorder may result from genetic factors, lack of structure at home, and disagreement with elders, whereas conduct disorder may result from poor parenting, past trauma, and a low IQ.
  4. A child diagnosed with the defiant disorder will argue with elders, have short tempers, and demonstrate resentment. In contrast, a child diagnosed with conduct disorder will initiate physical fights, damage property, be bullied, and steal.
  5. Treatment of either disorder is best achieved through therapy. While no other medications are safe or effective for the treatment of defiant disorder, medications such as Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Lithium can be beneficial for treating conduct disorder.
  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2010-23724-004
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4899-1501-6_6

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