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Causes of Disruptive Behavior Disorders

The exact causes of Disruptive Behavior Disorders remain poorly understood, but various different factors, including biological, psychological and social ones, have been implicated in the development of these disorders [ref]:

There seems to be some evidence that Disruptive Behavior Disorders are due in part to genetic risks, and that Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder may share some of the same genetic risks.

Individuals with these conditions have been shown in some studies to have altered activity of certain hormones and neurotransmitters. Lower levels of serotonin activity in the central nervous system has been found, as well as lower than normal levels of stress hormone activity (cortisol levels) while at rest.

Disruptive Behavior Disorders have also been associated with pregnancy-related problems, such as smoking and drug use during pregnancy, maternal stress, low birth weight, and other pregnancy and delivery complications.

Certain personality traits seem to be somewhat characteristic of these disorders. This includes high levels of Impulsivity (the tendency to act in potentially dangerous ways without giving much thought to the consequences), high levels of Neuroticism (the tendency to react to events with anxiety, fear and sadness), and low levels of Behavioral Inhibition (the tendency to feel apprehensive or afraid of new and unfamiliar situations and experiences).

Certain kinds of parenting styles, such as a tendency to use harsh, violent and inconsistent punishments, have also been linked with Disruptive Behavior Disorders. Parents who have antisocial behaviors themselves, and who are Depressed, are more likely to have children with Conduct Disorder [ref]. Experiencing sexual or physical abuse during childhood also increases the risk of Conduct Disorder.

Growing up in a low socioeconomic environment, and affiliating with delinquent peers, may contribute to Disruptive Behavior Disorders.

Experiencing an important life stress of any sort is often the reason for why the symptoms of these conditions may start at a given time.


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Course & Prevalence