Conduct Disorder: A Review of the Literature and the Impact on Caregivers

Ryan Doucet, Rima Azar, Shelly Doucet, Alison Luke


Introduction: Conduct disorder (CD) is a problematic psychiatric disorder that presents significant challenges for caregivers and families. CD itself has an abundance of literature, although minimal focus has been given toward caregiver mental health and overall well-being. Objectives:  This paper reviewed the literature on the burden of caring for youth with CD on caregivers’ mental health. Specifically, we (a) briefly synthesized the existing knowledge on the impact of CD on caregivers while pointing to gaps in literature, and (b) provided recommendations to clinicians caring for youth with CD and their families. Methods: Using specific inclusion/exclusion criteria, we located published studies from 2000–2020 on CD and caregivers’ mental health from PsycInfo and PubMed. Results: The four articles that met inclusion criteria for this review utilized different scales and interview techniques to measure caregiver strain, making quantitative comparisons challenging. However, three prevalent reoccurring themes were present among these articles: an increase in caregiver negative emotional states, poor parent-child relationships, and adverse effects on caregivers’ spousal relations while caring for a youth with CD. Conclusion/Discussion: This literature review noted the paucity of empirical research on CD and caregiver strain. Our findings reiterate the negative impact this disorder has on caregivers’ mental health, child-parent relationships, and spousal relations. CD is responsible for substantial societal costs due to criminality and special education arrangements; however, many secondary issues of CD may be offset through access to parenting programs such as Triple P and proper access to clinical support teams.

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