A resemblance may be noticed of the symptoms and behaviour patterns of children diagnosed with attentional deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), and similar conditions. The diagnoses by a Clinical/Educational Psychologist/Psychiatrist should be requested after an extensive assessment to define the specific condition.

Children diagnosed with ADHD and ODD may appear angry or hostile, but they rarely show cruelty to people and animals which is common in children with CD.

A boy diagnosed with ADHD may get into occasional fights at school due to frustration and feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. If the boy engages in particularly cruel behaviour towards another person or an animal, a diagnosis of CD is more likely.

The following list of behaviour patterns is not a standardized questionnaire but random symptoms that may indicate serious conduct in a child that needs further investigation.

  • The repetitive and persistent pattern of behaviour that violates the rights of others
  • Violation of major age-appropriate societal norms or rules
  • Continuous bully behaviour to cause pain and his subsequent enjoyment of the responses others show
  • Destructive behaviour, such as arson and vandalism or destruction of own, parents’ or other’s property
  • Deceitfulness,  dishonesty, being misleading, being manipulative for own purposes
  • Violation of rules, which may include truancy and running away from home or persistent threat to run away from home
  • A threat to commit suicide as part of a manipulative pattern
  • Serious violations of rules (home, institution, or school) 
  • Behaviour to annoy others, causing significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning
  • Actions to annoy or are disturbing to others and  elicit a shock reaction
  • Behaviour traits that reflect callousness (lack of empathy) and absence of emotions 
  • Lack of concern about the feelings of others
  • Enjoyment of the negative effect that their harmful behaviour/actions have on others
  • A threat to harm others
  • A lack of remorse deeply routed morals, standards, values, principles, or ethics – the child often knows the difference between right/wrong and good/bad, but this knowledge or perception is superficial
  • Remorse is often shallow, has little meaning but is functional and has the purpose to prevent punishment
  • The frequent and persistent pattern of angry/irritable mood, being argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness
  • He/ she does not learn from past experience or punishment and similar behaviour is generally repeated
  • No guilt or shame especially after committing cruel actions
  • The child’s response to punishment or a threat to be punished can be out of proportion only to prevent punishment
  • Discussions of his/her conduct elicit a low level of response or no response
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Deceitful behavior, such as lying, shoplifting, or stealing from classmates, the teacher, or family members. Minor items that are taken from the teacher’s drawer or the parents, is often followed by a justification of the action
  • When at least 8 of the aforementioned behaviour patterns are noticed for the past 12 months and when some of the symptoms emerged during preschool, an assessment by a professional is recommended.

Before jumping to unfounded conclusions, the circumstances and environment including the behaviour of others in the child’s company at the time of the conduct should be taken into account. Keep a detailed diary of the behaviour you find inappropriate. The professional may decide to evaluate the child by making use of collateral information from the school, parents, family members but also performing age-appropriate personality questionnaires, kinetic drawings, projective techniques (Columbus, CAT, and others), and the Rorschach Performance Assessment or R-Pass which reveals information in terms of the personality, behaviour, the emotional and cognitive functioning of children, adults, and the elderly.

Annemie Peché

082 3356 133 / 011 675 6138