While there are a number of treatment options for individuals with disruptive behavioral disorders (DBD), the most effective treatments are tailored to their individual needs and the behavioral symptoms of each child. A combination of individual and family psychotherapy are commonly used treatment approaches. A clinician may prescribe medication to help treat the symptoms, especially if there are co-occurring conditions.
Parent/caregivers often find themselves in distress due to the nature of the behaviors that their child tends to display. Parents tend to feel added pressure to monitor and supervise their child while also attending to other parental responsibilities. In addition, siblings of children with a DBD also experience challenges managing their emotional reactions to their sibling’s disruptive behavior. This can lead to poor school performance as well as interfere with their mental health functioning. Of the number of treatment options available, interventions involving the family system have been found to be the most effective. For younger children, the family is often utilized as the primary target for intervention. When providing treatment to adolescents, involving the family in treatment can serve as a useful source of support.
Most often families are included in the treatment process through family psychotherapy and parent management training. Family therapy is an approach to treatment whereby the child’s behavior serves as a function of the entire family system. One of the misconceptions about engaging the family in therapy is that parents are to blame for the dysfunction when, in fact, the family is seen as the “remedy” to the dysfunction. The overall aim is to help the family system better manage the child’s behavior. With this approach to treatment, victim blaming is avoided and alternative ways to function as a family are introduced. The focus of treatment is on the relationship patterns and communication among family members. Areas of focus may include, but are not limited to, emotion management, communication, and conflict resolution.
Parent management training is a treatment approach to that involves working with the parent/caregivers privately. Treatment goals include addressing parenting concerns and helping parents learn new skills to reduce behavioral symptoms. Research has shown that intervening with parents is one of the most effective ways to reduce the behavioral symptoms in all age groups. Therapists who take this approach will likely provide psychoeducation and skills training that helps parents improve their discipline practices, communication patterns, and understanding of the behavioral disorder. This can be done through modeling, role-playing, and parent practice with the child while receiving feedback. Parent management training provides an opportunity for the parent/caregiver to receive support as they are often bear the responsibility of caring for and supervising their child while also cooperating with other systems (e.g., school, juvenile justice, etc.).
Parental involvement is crucial to the treatment of a child with a disruptive behavior disorder. Here at CRG (Children’s Resource Group), we value family participation and strive to educate families regarding mental health. If you or someone you know are interested in learning more about treatment of disruptive behavior disorders, additional information can be found in the links provided below. Please note that effective treatment includes the involvement of a trained therapist. Please contact a health care professional for additional information.
Chamberlin, J. (2005). Family therapy enhances treatment for children’s mental disorders. American Psychological Association, 36(11), 64.
Forehand, R., Jones, D., & Parent, J. (2013). Behavioral parenting interventions for child disruptive behaviors and anxiety: What’s different and what’s the same. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(1), 133–145.
Oruche, U.M., Draucker, C., Alkhattab, H., Knopf, A., & Mazurcyk, J. (2014). Interventions for family members of adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing: Official Publication of the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nurses, Inc., 27(3), 99–108.