Conduct disorders, violent and risky behaviours in adolescence: investigating the potential of executive function as an intervention target in optimising behavioural interventions in South Africa


  • Dr Tamsen Rochat

    Human Sciences Research Council

Project summary

Conduct disorders (CD) involve persistent patterns of behaviour including aggression, destruction of property, theft and violation of rules. Adolescent CD is linked to risky behaviours, such as smoking and substance use, and violent behaviours, such as use of weapons and sexual coercion. In adulthood they link to antisocial behaviour and are costly to society. Globally, 5% of adolescents have CD and estimates for Africa are double that. Although difficult and expensive, CD can be treated, although there is little evidence on interventions that work for adolescents. Previously, we found a link between CD and executive functions (EF) in younger children. EF are mental processes important for planning, decision-making and managing frustration. EF may play an important role in violent and risky behaviour among adolescents with CD.

I will explore this link in 1,486 urban adolescents in South Africa, investigating whether behavioural interventions can be enhanced by improving EF.

This grant was awarded under the scheme's previous name of Intermediate Fellowships in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.