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About Disruptive Behaviour

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Serious and persistent disruptive and antisocial behaviour often starts in childhood. Early identification and intervention for young children with disruptive behaviour problems is important, if not critical. 

Conduct disorders (disruptive behaviour problems) are the most common referral reason to a children’s mental health centre in North America. Children with conduct disorders consume the most resources and are the most expensive clients to serve.

Children with conduct disorders repeatedly and consistently show a number of severely aggressive and anti-social behaviours, and they may find it very difficult to follow rules and behave in socially acceptable ways.

Typical presenting problems of conduct disorders/disruptive behaviour problems include:

  • Difficult family relationships
  • Physically aggressive behaviour
  • Angry outbursts
  • Verbally aggressive or defiant behaviour
  • Lack of self-control and problem-solving skills
  • Difficulty making and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Stealing
  • Bullying
  • Vandalism

Left untreated, conduct disorders can have long-term, significant impacts on the child, their family and society. Poor lifespan outcomes include persistent criminality (approximately 60 per cent of incarcerated males have a history of conduct disorders), poor vocational and social functioning, mental illness, increased rates of hospitalization, family and parenting dysfunction, and substance abuse.

Facts to consider:

  • Leading researchers have found that there are “seven years of warning” before a juvenile becomes a serious, violent offender.
  • The most serious juvenile offenders in the 15 and up range most likely entered the system under the age of 12. 
  • Early onset of offending is one of the strongest predictors of subsequent re-offence.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention documents that, compared with youth who start offending in adolescence, children aged 12 and younger at risk for delinquency “are two to three times more likely to become tomorrow’s serious and violent offenders.”
  • Research also shows that “these children are potentially identifiable either before they begin committing crimes or at the very early stages of criminality, times when interventions are most likely to succeed.”

To learn more about how SNAP® programs can help children with disruptive behaviour problems, please visit the SNAP Programs section.

“Vandalism, starting fires, getting in fights – I didn’t really care what I was doing. SNAP showed me that I have a choice in the way I act.”

SNAP Boy