Parenting a child with conduct disorder is the loneliest thing I know. Conduct disorder (CD) is a diagnosis given to children who have an ongoing pattern of troubling antisocial behavior. The definitions are all very wordy—but the simple version is that a child who gets this diagnosis might grow up to be a psychopath.
When my son got his diagnosis, I wasn’t surprised. He started physically hurting me when his age was measured in months, rather than years. Consequences did not deter him. For years I told friends, doctors, teachers, my own parents that I thought there was something wrong with him. No one listened. Parents at the park started avoiding us. My son was never invited to parties or included in fun activities. Not that I blame them—he was constantly harming other children. But American culture rarely blames the child who is acting out; it blames the child’s parents. Too often, I heard, “If it was my child I would never let them get away with this.” Eventually I stopped trying to connect with other parents. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what do you do when the village shuns you?
Back in 2014, when I started Parents of Children with Conduct Disorder (PCCD), a Facebook support group that now has about 800 members from around the world, there were no support groups dedicated to parents of children with CD. I called medical experts looking for one; even the people treating and researching these children did not know of any. I was shocked at first—there is a support group for everything. And then I realized why. In order to form a support group, someone would have to put their name on it. And no one wants to come forward as the parent of a psychopath.