Girl with a frowning face drawn on paper in front of her own face

Childhood disorders


Understanding the causes of mood and behavioural disorders


Diagnoses often overlap: for example, many children and young people with ODD also have problems with ADHD or anxiety. Problems with attention can also come from many sources, including anxiety and stress as well as ADHD. A thorough diagnostic evaluation by a child mental health specialist such as a child psychiatrist, psychologist, or paediatrician is important. This can include interviews with the child or adolescent and their parents; obtaining information from other people the young person interacts with, such as teachers or coaches, and sometimes cognitive testing or standardised questionnaires.

Having a good understanding of mood and behavioural disorders is important. So too is starting an intervention early to correct the trajectory of these disorders because this is a time when the brain is still developing, as is the young person’s idea of who they can be. 

Treatment can include parental or family education to teach effective communication and ways of encouraging positive behaviors, family or individual psychotherapy, social skills training, and methods such as CBT to learn to manage anxiety or regulate emotions such as anger. Medication can sometimes also be helpful, usually in combination with other types of intervention.

About our research

The Lenroot group is part of the Bipolar Kids & Sibs Study at the Black Dog Institute. This study is following young people aged 12-30 who have a first degree relative with bipolar disorder, in order to better understand how being at increased genetic risk for Bipolar Disorder is affecting development, and whether specific elements of brain structure or function may help to predict which of these young people are likely to develop bipolar disorder themselves.

More details can be found at:

The Lenroot group is also studying boys aged 8-16 with conduct problems. They are carrying out an fMRI study to examine how attention to social cues affects brain activity. Results from this study should help to guide interventions for young people with difficult-to-treat conduct problems. For more information about the study, see

Read about Caidos Sapsford’s experience participating in an empathy study.

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