Early onset conduct disorder diagnosis for my 8yo


New Member
Hi, my first post.
My 8yo son was diagnosed with Conduct Disorder a year ago now. Also, ODD (oppositional defiance disorder).
TBH the diagnosis made a lot of sense and explained behaviours that he has had since about 4yo.
Also, knowing has made how I deal with them more productive.
The one thing that I struggle with daily is that he doesn't have friends. Not one.
We have recently moved across the country and his new school is amazing. As part of his diagnosis, he has learning difficulties, specifically literacy. His school has a Learning Support Manager that has dealt with 3 other children in her 20 yr career that have CD so she (and his teacher) have been wonderful in programming his learning, but he can't make friends.
I put him in football at the start of this season but he just kept kicking the other boys (mostly in the crotch) and his coach couldn't cope so I took him out.
His psychologist has explained that he will eventually learn to mimic others' behaviour in social situations but at his age this is a long way away. He has also recently starting being violent with me. Hitting me, and once throwing a rock at the back of my head (he connected unfortunately).
I guess I just want to know if there are other parents dealing with the same insecurities as I am. I am terrified of him growing up to hurt other people. Being diagnosed with CD so young puts him at such a high risk of ASBD as an adult.
The other topic I'd love to hear from others parents regarding is the hurt involved in the general lack of understanding regarding the diagnosis of young children with mental illnesses (for want of a better umbrella term for these things). I say to my partner all the time, that people just view him as a 'naughty' kid. Autism is a perfect example. People GENERALLY understand if you tell them your child has autism, that that child won't behave like their child. Trying to tell people that your 8yo is a sociopath doesn't usually meet with any kind of understanding.
Thank you for letting me vent! I would really love to hear from other parents who are dealing with the same issues I am.


Well-Known Member
Hi, Ewok, and welcome.

Sorry you had to find us... but glad you did.

Just my opinion here, but... ODD and/or CD, as a diagnosis, is generally best viewed as a place-holder, not the final diagnosis. ESPECIALLY this young. You would be amazed at how many kids are given this diagnosis because they don't seem to fit anything else at the time.

For my kid - I knew it wasn't the answer, because the "solutions" weren't solving the underlying problems. Like social skills. And handling transitions and ambiguity and all sorts of other "normal" things that kids develop skills for, and mine wasn't. We didn't get even close to an accurate diagnosis until he was an adult - and ended up with "highly probable Asperger's" plus a mental illness. The combination meant that one set of issues tended to hide behind the other set of issues, no matter which set they looked at first.

People are generally NOT understanding. Period. And I wouldn't label an 8 year old as a "sociopath". I found it helps to be vague. My kid has developmental and mental health challenges - he is lacking social and other skills, and lags behind his peers in many areas. People don't need to know more than that, and most don't even need to know that.

I'd be pushing for him to get Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)/Autism Spectrum interventions for social skills. And no, team sports aren't a good place to learn that - unfortunately, the "jocks" really like to take it out on kids that are different. Your son "kicking the other kids" is likely in retaliation for things going on that you and the coach(es) don't see.

The violence - take it as a sign that HE is absolutely NOT coping well. He isn't getting the supports he needs from school or professionals or anyone else. So he fights back the only way he knows how. It's dangerous to HIM as well as to you.

Who did the diagnosis? What was his childhood like (baby, toddler, preschool, etc.)? Is he adopted or your own? Is his dad in the picture? There could be many reasons for his behavior.


New Member
Thanks for responding.
He has had a miriad of incorrect diagnoses. He had speech delay that led to a diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder. He has been tested for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
I'll give you a little background: I took him to a psychologist about 13months ago after 2 specificincidents that were really scary.
1. He was playing with his then 2yo sister on the lounge. They were giggling, tickling each other. Then it went really quiet and when I looked up from the vegies I was chopping, he was straddling her and holding a pillow over her face.
2. We got a puppy. He would do terrible things to it. She was a pug, she at 6wks old was tiny. He would put her in the bath, while we spent hours searching for her. Then lie that it was him. He started strangling her. Throwing her across the backyard, as hard as he could.

The psychiatric listened to my concerns, and grabbed a book that he lay in front of me. He showed me a list of hehaviours for CD and asked me how many Chase displays. ALL OF THEM. He lies, steals (I can't keep any money in my wallet as he takes all of it), manipulates, is destructive, and many others.
The main thing to understand is that he doesn't hurt people in anger EVER. He isn't 'violent' in the malevolent sense of the word. He just doesn't realise that it's wrong. That's what makes all this so scary for me.

To answer your other question, his childhood wasn't great. He has 2 older brothers. When his (horribly abusive) father and I separated his father kidnapped his 2 older brothers and hasn't seen him for 6 years (different states). We are STILL going through the motions of court proceedings as I see my eldest 2 every 18mths ish. I now have a little girl as well. My partner is amazing and spends lots of time with my son riding motorbikes and doing boy stuff. He couldn't identify his father though and misses his brothers terribly.

I hope that clarifies a few things.


Well-Known Member
Look up Reactive Attachment Disorder.
It's more common in older adopted kids - but one of the factors is serious abuse/neglect in the first three years of life that affects development of normal attachment.

But the behaviors you are describing... while they may fit CD or ODD, they also fit Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). IF you are dealing with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)... YIKES.


New Member
I do understand that the parameters for a CD diagnosis only require the patient to display 2 of the behaviours in a 6 month period, so some children fall into that category that maybe shouldn't be there.

I can't stress enough that my son isn't violent or hyperactive. He is a quiet, sweet boy whos part of the brain that controls empathy just didn't develop. He's incredibly clever, but doesn't do well at school ie he's not 'smart'. His ability to manipulate is scary. At 4yo he would cry to make you think you had hurt him and would then stop suddenly and with complete deadpan tell you to buy him chocolate (for example).
The way it was explained to his teacher is that he will never understand why being disruptive in class is wrong, but he will eventually learn that if he does it, his teacher will get upset.


Well-Known Member
At 4yo he would cry to make you think you had hurt him and would then stop suddenly and with complete deadpan tell you to buy him chocolate (for example).
Classical behavior for Reactive Attachment Disorder.

I would not be living your daughter unsupervised around him AT ALL. And re-home all pets.


New Member
We rehomed our dog after our first appointment with his psychiatric!
And yes, most of our concerns with his behavours at home are related to our daughter. We don't leave them together unattended EVER.


Well-Known Member
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is more serious than ODD or CD. I have not had to deal with this one - just stories I've heard from here and other places. You will want to find professionals to work with who have extensive experience with attachment disorders. Often, these have connections to foreign adoptions. General psychologists and psychiatrists are not familiar with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in their practice, and won't have the experience dealing with it. He may end up needing residential placement, for his own safety and the safety of the rest of the family.


Well-Known Member
I have to agree that he sounds like a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) kid. His father's abuse and kidnapping of siblings could cause that plus heredity us a factor in behavior.

I adopted Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) child and he also acted very non violent in front of adults.what he did to children when no adults were around were plAin evil. We had to undo the adoption for the sake of my younger children whom we found out he hurt badly, then threatened with death if he told on him.

I wish you luck. This is a challenge. Does he like fire? Does he potty in inappropriate ways? Trying to smother his sibling is violent even if he didn't throw a punch. I'm sorry you are going through this. Be very careful, please. Our boy was sexual with our younger kids and they were afraid to tell us. That's why we finally called social services to tell them to remove him..we had no idea. He was so good at acting sweet to adults. My nightmare.
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Active Member
Many of the following are things required after they get into legal trouble. Might want to start with some of these things now...

24 hour constant supervision. Take your eyes off of him for a second and he will be doing whatever he can, which he is not supposed to be doing. Lock up EVERYTHING in the house to prevent huffing, theft, and destruction of your property. Learn about huffing and what they can huff. The list is very long and includes cleaning chemicals, WD-40, Sharpie pens, mouth wash, PAM cooking spray, whipped cream, automotive products, butane/lighters, etc. Just about everything in the house! Read all about "huffing" so you can catch it if it starts.

You can also put alarms on rooms in your house (like a driveway alarm - beeper in your bedroom) for rooms he should not be going into at night when you are asleep. (We must sleep!)

Basically if possible, do not leave him alone - take him places with you. Supervise him when he is playing with other kids. Keep him within "arms length" when in a store or other public places. Watch him CONSTANTLY when he is on the internet. See what he is printing out. Or make it so you have to get whatever he prints out. Best would be a non-smartphone cell phone if he must have a cell phone. (Talk only.)

Additional supervision can include sitting with him in classes at school - randomly. (If there are behavior problems.) His knowing you will do this can go a LONG way toward getting him to behave at school. Also monitor his grades/homework daily on your school's internet parent computer connection. You can catch it right away if he is not turning in his homework and saying (lying) that he has no homework.

"In school suspension" (never allowed to be by himself unsupervised) may come in handy if he is getting in trouble at school. Talk with all his teachers weekly to see what he is doing/not doing. (The truth!)

And positive feedback as opposed to negative punishment - can work like magic. Try to catch him doing good things and reward him. The key thing I read about this is "Normal parenting does not work". Keep repeating that to yourself!

Another thing to repeat to yourself: "It is not your fault!" These things can be genetic and not necessarily how the kid was raised by his parents. Parents with these kids have other kids who are perfectly normal - raised by the same parents!

As for criminal and destructive behavior, I have had trouble understanding these things. Because I am not like that! But I recently read a book about an adult with this condition. He delighted in doing things he could get away with doing. He KNEW he would be caught, but if he could have a minimum of punishment due to no one being able to prove "he did it", then it was a success to him! Made his day!

With that said, you may want to install video cameras inside and outside your home as well. Not allowed in bedrooms, bathrooms, or where a person would expect privacy. Everywhere else is fair game.

Do not leave him alone with animals.


New Member
Thanks Praecepta, this was helpful. I understand his diagnosis comes with a high risk of substance abuse as he gets older.

I am almost positive that his diagnosis is correct. His father was abusive to me, not him or his brothers. I did do some reading on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and this isn't him at all.

I feel that I need to be more specific with his behaviours:

1. As mentioned he never hurts others in anger. He is 'playing' or more often looking from attention from his peers. He doesn't understand that he is hurting them.

2. He is about 2 years behind academically. Specifically reading and writing. I do his homework with him every afternoon. We have a system where he can't watch tv or play his playstation unless it's done so he is pretty keen to get it over with as soon as we arrive home.

3. He has self esteem issues which I think stem from him a)not being able to do the same school work as others in his class (he has his own weekly schedule of work within the classroom) and b) just not being able to interact socially very well. This manifests as him not trying when he needs to do school work either with me or in the classroom.

4. He steals. An example- he spent school holidays in our home city with my mum and his aunt last year. He managed to snatch a $50 note from my mum's bedside table (whilst in the room with her) and then attempt to pass it off as his own ie when mum asked him where he got it, he said "mum put it in my suitcase for me! It's my present from mum". My mother replied that she knew how much money I'd given him and that it wasn't his. One week later, he stole his cousin's wallet. Spent the evening helping to look for it, and then returned home to me. I looked in his wallet and found 2 x $50 notes that weren't his and questioned him. He had taken the money from his cousin's wallet and thrown the wallet behind their washing mashine so he wouldn't be caught. He had just turned 7 when these incidents happened. 3 months ago I was buying a new car and had $1000 in $50 notes in my bag for the deposit. We stopped for lunch and in the time it took me to buckle his sister in her carseat he stole $500 out of my bag. It wasn't until I had purchased the car and handed over the deposit that I realised it was missing. Of course I found it in his wallet. His reason for taking it? I had lots of money and he had a little bit so he took some. This sort of thing happens all the time and I no longer keep cash at home. Ever.

5. He manipulates adults to get what he wants. Usually pretending that you've trodden on his foot etc and crying (tears and all) until he can get chocolate or lollies or whatever treat he had in mind. He will also laugh at anyone who he manages to sucker in. I clearly remember the first time he did this. He was 4yo and I remember feeling very uneasy. That wasn't normal behaviour.

6. We have had some trouble with him behaving in a sexual manner (pulling his pants down at school and trying to get others to do the same. This stopped about 18mths ago, thankfully, but went on and off for a year. He never did it in a secretive way however, always on the playground so it wasn't a concern in and of itself.

7. When he does something wrong, he will never be able to answer the 'do you know why you're in trouble' question. I have found having the 'good choices' conversation with him every morning on the way to school seems to reinforce what he needs to do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

8. Finally, he has an aid with him in the classroom most days to keep his attention on his work and off the other kids. He also has 3 one on one sessions a week with the Learning Support Manager and spends tine in the deputy principal's office when he needs time out. He has had 3 lunchtime detentions since he started at the school in April, but they seem to be on top of his behaviour and I have no intention of interfering with their authority within the school. I do have a Case meeting with them all every month.

I hope this has clarified a few things that I may have been a little vague on in my original post.