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Hi! I have a question regarding behavior disorders, specifically conduct disorder & antisocial behavioral disorder. I am wondering how a person gets this disorder. Is it genetic or environmental? Also--what is the chance of someone having this disorder? Is there a greater chance of a male getting this over a female?
Question Date: 2002-01-30
Answer 1:

Let me preface my answer to these questions with two comments. One, I am not an expert in this field but will try and answer the questions based on some readings I have done. Two, if these question are specific towards a person or group of people I would suggest that you seek a professional opinion or evaluation.

From what I have been able to learn, people (usually children and adolescents) do not "come down with" conduct disorder or antisocial behavior, it is not like the flu. Instead a series of factors may play a role in the diagnosis of these conditions. A specific genetic determination has not been found but since it sometimes runs in families there may be a genetic predisposition towards having these disorders. This is not to say that if you are or are not predisposed that you definitely will or will not display these behaviors.

It seems that environmental factors probably play a bigger role in the onset of these disorders. Again, exact factors have not been established and so children with these disorders may or may not be from "broken homes" or impoverished. While stories seem to abound about males and middle children being more prone to these conditions there has not been a reliable study on propensity of one gender over the other to be diagnosed with either of these disorders. Finally, about 6% of the population has been diagnosed with conduct disorder. An exact number is probably impossible to determine since diagnosis is not a strict test but just the opinion of medical doctor or psychologist.

Answer 2:

I'm a behavioral ecologist, so I'm usually more interested in why non-animals do what they do. I was able to find some information for you though.

As with most human behavior, these disorders seem to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. A person's genes might make them more susceptible to the disorders, but a person with the genetic predisposition may never show the behaviors. I found a good site for information from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, but you have to sign in in order to have access to the information.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Another site from Mental Health America says that approximately 6-16% of boys and 2-9% of girls have it. So it looks like males are a bit more likely to have it. Those numbers seem pretty high to me, but my expertise is in wood rats! I didn't find anything on antisocial behavioral disorder, though there are sites on antisocial personality disorder.

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