The Treatment of Childhood Disruptive Behavior Disorders in Ambulatory Mental Health Centers

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Over the years, evidence-based treatments for children with disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs; e.g., conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder) have been developed, however, there is not much information about the treatment children receive in usual mental healthcare settings. This study examined the common treatment provided in US ambulatory mental health clinics to children aged 3 to 9 years who are diagnosed with DBDs. An online survey was filled by appropriate respondents from 145 ambulatory mental health centers across 33 states within the US. The most common treatment provided for childhood DBDs was a combination of child therapy (CT) and parent training (PT) (n = 81, 56%), followed by family therapy (n = 42, 29%), CT (n = 17, 12%), and PT (n = 5, 3%). Behavioral and cognitive principles were reported as the most common treatment orientations across all types of treatment (n = 116/145, 80%). The mean number of sessions administered was 31.38 ± 22.72, and PT as a standalone treatment required approximately a third of sessions (10.6 ± 1.34). In treatments combining CT and PT, the utilization of specific parenting programs was associated with fewer administered sessions. Results suggest that the importance of parental involvement in treating DBDs is acknowledged in routine practice. However, more studies are needed to determine why certain types and orientations of treatments are favored over others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1110-1114
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


  • Conduct disorder
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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