It is not uncommon for police to respond to calls for service regarding out-of-control juveniles.  Good officers take the time to learn about behavior disorders so they can help a family begin appropriate interventions for the health of the juvenile and the family. 

MRAI is a law enforcement term used in Illinois to describe a juvenile who is not in the process of committing a criminal offense, but needs emotional health services instead.

This post was written  by Alyssa Dawson.  Alyssa is an LEJA student at Western Illinois University, and this post is part of a presentation she made in her Juvenile Justice class.


            Where I grew up as a child, there were a handful of children that had behavioral issues. Those children were typically kicked out of that school and sent to an alternative school in another town. They would often act out and disrupt class multiple times a day, and it was usually a day-to-day occurrence. Some of those students even displayed symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis given to children who are persistently negative, hostile, disobedient, and defiant towards authority, and which interferes with the child’s everyday functioning. There are three categories that the symptoms fall into. Those categories are; angry and irritable, argumentative and defiant behavior, and vindictiveness. There is no specific cause for ODD, but there is a combination of factors that can play a role in the development of the disorder. They include biological, psychological, and social factors. In order to be diagnosed, the child must exhibit four of the nine symptoms for at least six months or longer. ODD can vary in severity: mild, moderate, and severe. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is what most doctors use to diagnose ODD in children. Only 3.3% of the population has been diagnosed with ODD. Of those diagnosed with ODD, between 14% and 40% also have ADHD, up to 14% have anxiety, and up to 9% have depression as a co-existing condition. Among younger children, ODD is more common in boys, but once children reach school-age, it occurs equally in boys and girls. There is no way to prevent ODD, but research shows that early-intervention and school-based programs along with therapy can help improve behavior and prevent them from getting worse. There are certain types of treatment and programs that can help the child and family cope with the ODD diagnosis.

Conduct disorder (CD) is a psychiatric condition in children that exhibit aggression, lying, stealing, and other behavior that is socially unacceptable. The DSM-5 classifies two major subtypes of CD; childhood-onset and adolescent-onset. For the childhood-onset, at least one of the criteria of antisocial behavior must be exhibited by a child younger than 10 years old. For adolescent-onset, there are no characteristics presented before the age of 10. Brain damage, traumatic events, genes, and child abuse are some causes of CD. Experts say that there are six factors that play a role in developing conduct disorder. CD is in 4.58% of boys and 4.5% of girls. In a study conducted in four schools in Kanke, with 240 students in the survey, childhood-onset was found in 73% and adolescent-onset was found in 23% of the students that had conduct disorder. Of the students with CD, 36% had mild conduct disorder, 64% had moderate, and 0% had severe. CD is more common in boys than it is in girls and is more common in cities than in rural areas. 40% of these children will have antisocial personality disorder as an adult. Some risk factors are: children that come from homes that are disadvantaged, dysfunctional, or disorganized. Some children who have CD also have coexisting conditions. The only way to diagnose a child with CD is to have them diagnosed by a child psychiatrist or a qualified mental health expert. There are certain treatments that help with CD, such as, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, peer group therapy, and medicine.

There is no way to prevent ODD or CD, but positive parenting strategies can reduce the risk. While having a child diagnosed with ODD or CD can be difficult to cope with, there are a few ways to deal with it. You must keep all your appointments, take part in family therapy, develop a treatment plan, and reach out for support from others.