Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry

Disruptive Behavior Disorder (DBD)

What is Disruptive Behavior Disorder?

Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) are a group of behavioral disorders marked by patterns of defiant and hostile actions, usually towards authority figures. Although these behaviors are often directed towards authority figures such as parents or teachers; siblings, classmates, and other peers may be affected as well. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder are the two most common disruptive behavior disorders. Children with ODD show patterns of hostile and defiant behaviors directed towards authority figures. ODD tends to show in a younger population than conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a much more serious problem in which an individual violates the basic rights of other human beings.

What are the causes of this condition?

Genetic, physical, and environmental factors may all contribute to the development of DBD. Genetics may be a factor because children with DBD often have family members who also suffer some form of mental illness. Chemical imbalances in the brain may be a physical factor contributing to the development of DBD. Environment can play a big role in the development of a child. Children growing up in chaotic or dysfunctional homes, absent parents, and a lack of discipline may all contribute to behavior patterns linked to DBD. Other common risk factors include: being male, exposure to violence, and suffering from abuse or neglect.

Disruptive Behavior Disorder Symptoms

Children with DBD commonly refuse to comply with rules, isolate themselves socially, bully peers, destruct property, lie, steal, and blame others. Dangerous behaviors such as harming animals and playing with fire may be exhibited as well. Children with DBD often lack the ability to "think before they speak". Difficulty concentrating, frustration, memory impairment, and lack of problem solving skills are also common. Low self-esteem as well as a lack of empathy or remorse are all common. A false sense of grandiosity, chronic negativity, and obstinate irritability may also be present as well.

Early intervention is the best way to prevent a child from developing severe DBD.


  • Defying set rules
  • Social isolation
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Destruction of property
  • Blaming others
  • Bullying
  • Revenge-seeking
  • Playing with fire
  • Cruelty towards animals
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Memory impairment
  • Lack of problem-solving skills
  • Impulsivity
  • Lack of empathy or remorse
  • Negativity
  • Low self-esteem
  • False sense of grandiosity

Disruptive Behavior Disorder Treatment