A Comparison Of Children With Conduct Disorder Versus Childhood Depression

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology


Symptom overlap and similar conceptualizations of dissimilar behavior are factors complicating diagnostic clarity between conduct disorder and depression in children. Each is frequently described as a variant of the other, viz. depression as internalized anger and conduct disorder as marked depression. The present study sought to clarify the similarities and the differences between these two disorders.Conduct disordered children were hypothesized to demonstrate an active temperament which is accelerated by parenting involving an intrusive/restrictive style. Depressed children were hypothesized to demonstrate a passive temperament which is potentiated by parenting involving low nurturance.Psychosocial stressors were identified. Personality dimensions of self-esteem, locus of control, anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness were measured. Behavioral analysis of symptomatology was conducted.It was found that conduct disordered and depressed children formed entirely distinct groups with regard to core symptoms but overlapped in secondary symptoms and associated features. Psychosocial stressors occurred with high frequency in both groups. Self report personality measures did not differentiate the groups. Behavioral instances of the same dimensions indicated depressed children had lower self-esteem and more anxiety and conduct disordered children had more anger and external locus of control.The predicted pattern of parental style and temperamental differences was not found although conduct disordered children were found to be more temperamentally active and distractible.It was concluded that clear behavioral differentiation between conduct disorder and depressed groups is attainable if core symptoms are focused upon. Personality differences are not demonstrable with self report measures but behavioral measurement indicates power conflicts for conduct dissorder and affective conflicts for depression. The parenting/temperament interaction model was concluded to be too global for effective application to complex diagnostic differentiation.


Psychology, Clinical

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