Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Ann C. Kruger - Chair

Second Advisor

Dennis N. Thompson

Third Advisor

Gregory L. Brack

Fourth Advisor

Phillip E. Gagne


The academic underachievement of children and adolescents diagnosed with conduct disorder is well established in the literature. However, no study to date has explored the contributions of personal and contextual variables to specific areas of academic functioning in this population. In this study measures of basic reading, reading comprehension, mathematics reasoning, and numerical operations were assessed using the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) in 63 participants with childhood onset (CO) conduct disorder and 27 participants with adolescent onset (AO) conduct disorder. Participants were enrolled in a residential treatment facility between 1998 and 2002 at the time of evaluation. A series of ANCOVAs were conducted to evaluate how verbal IQ, onset subtype, comorbid ADHD, and residence location (urban versus nonurban) influenced each academic area. Only verbal IQ was significantly related to all academic areas. After adjusting for the variance explained by verbal IQ, comorbid ADHD did not significantly influence academic scores. After controlling for verbal IQ, participants with either CO or an urban residence were found to have significantly weaker scores in basic reading. Urban residents with CO had significantly weaker performance in mathematical reasoning. Numerical operations scores were the weakest among the four academic areas for both onset groups, and verbal IQ explained a relatively small portion of the variance. Overall, a larger portion of the variance in academic scores was explained among the AO group than the CO group, suggesting subtler complexities among the CO population that are yet unknown. This study highlights the heterogeneity among the conduct disorder population and variation in academic risk by demographic markers. If these results replicate across studies, they may represent a more parsimonious organization of patterns of characteristics that will provide treatment utility for clinical work and educational intervention beyond what is currently used.