Kurt A. Freeman
Conduct problems (CP) in children and adolescents include a wide range of behavioral disruptions ranging from relatively minor problems, such as whining, crying, sassing or talking back, temper tantrums, and passive defiance or noncompliance to more significant challenges such as active defiance, property destruction, truancy, and verbal and physical aggression (McMahon & Wells, 1998). Research suggests that oppositional and defiant behaviors (e.g., noncompliance, sassiness) may serve as precursors to more serious forms of antisocial behavior (Beiderman et al. 1996; Loeber, Green, Keenan, & Lahey, 1995). Although historically CP were conceptualized along a one-dimensional bipolar scale of overt-covert behavior (Loeber & Lahey, 1989; Loeber & Schmaling, 1985), more recent evidence suggests a multidimensional approach with two bipolar dimensions, overt-covert and nondestructive-destructive (Frick et al., 1993). Using such an approach, CP have been categorized into four quadrants: (1) oppositional behavior (e.g., stubborn, angry, touchy), (2) aggression (e.g., bullies, fights, blames others), (3) property violations (e.g., vandalism, fire setting, cruelty to animals), and (4) status violations (e.g., substance use, truancy).
Typically, CP do not occur alone, but rather are part of a constellation of behaviors that may constitute a behavioral syndrome or disorder.