Tackle conduct disorders to prevent offending, say health experts

By Neil Puffett

| 27 March 2013

Support for parents of children at risk of developing conduct disorders could prevent them becoming young offenders, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said.

Around half of children with a conduct disorder go on to have serious mental health problems as an adult. Image: Morguefile

Guidance published today by Nice says parents and children need more help to prevent conduct disorders developing into criminal behaviour.

The organisation says early intervention group programmes for both parents and children can help treat the conditions before it becomes entrenched.

The guidance suggests that initial assessments should take place for those suspected of having a conduct disorder, which can be characterised by fighting, stealing and vandalism.

Group training programmes should then be offered to parents of children between the ages of three and 11 who have been identified as being at risk of developing a conduct disorder or are in contact with the criminal justice system due to antisocial behaviour.

Alongside this, group sessions should be offered to children aged nine to 14 who display the same characteristics.

The guidance, which was developed with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), also calls for improved access to services.

Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of Nice, said: “Conduct disorders, and associated antisocial behaviour, are the most common mental and behavioural problems in children and young people – around half of children with a conduct disorder not only miss out on parts of their childhood but go on to have serious mental health problems as adults.

“The new Nice guideline is the first national clinical guideline in this area and includes a number of recommendations to support healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and treat conduct disorders.

"It aims to significantly improve the lives of young people with a conduct disorder, which is a serious but frequently unrecognised mental health problem.”

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive of SCIE, said: “The lives of children and young people with conduct disorders can be devastatingly affected so it is clearly vital that they have access to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

“It is important not to concentrate solely on their clinical needs but also to consider their whole lives – as part of a family, school and local community.

“That is why it is crucial that everyone in health, social care and education work well together to provide the information and person-centred care necessary to improve the quality of life and life chances for children, young people, their families and carers.”

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