Hyperactivity and conduct disorder: exploring origins

P. Mcardle, G. O'Brien and I. Kolvin

Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine 2003; 19(2):41-47

With thanks to the MedMedia Groupfor their support for this project and for giving permission to reproduce the article, which was originally published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine

Cite as: 

P. Mcardle, G. O'Brien, I. Kolvin, "Hyperactivity and conduct disorder: exploring origins", Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, Volume 19, No. 2, pp. 41-47 (MedMedia Group, 2003).


Objectives: This paper explores the relationship of hyperactivity (HA), conduct disorder (CD) and combined hyperactivity and conduct disorder (HACD) with certain environmental and biological stresses and vulnerabilities.

Method: It is based upon a large epidemiological database from the North of England.

Results: The findings suggest that CD is uncommon and strongly related to environmental stresses. This is true to a lesser extent of HACD. While both CD and HACD were related to family adversity and adverse styles of parental discipline, subtly different patterns of associations are also evident. In particular, CD is linked with poverty, parental violence and contact with child care social agencies. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that HA contributes to a pattern of confrontation and punishment associated, in some cases, with the emergence of a more complex combination disturbance. However, CD occurs against a background of family conflict and poor child-care.

Conclusions: Most apparent cases of conduct disorder are in fact hybrid conditions including symptoms of HA and CD. True CD should be diagnosed not only by positive symptomatology but also by the absence of hyperactivity symptoms.

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