Here's something to
help you get prepared to pass the social work licensing exam. It's
part of our ongoing, intermittent, free question series. Put
yourself in this social worker's shoes and figure out what you
A woman tells a social worker that her son has been
misbehaving wildly ever since starting kindergarten, over a month
ago. He's angry and irritable, throwing frequent tantrums. He's
defiant and argumentative over small things. And he's been
exhibiting a troubling vindictive streak, cruelly evening the score
with his younger sister, escalating petty squabbles into full-blown
battles. "He's turned into a little monster," the woman says. What
diagnosis is the BEST fit for the son, given the limited
information the mother has provided?
A. No diagnosis is indicated
B. Oppositional Defiant Disorder
C. Intermittent Explosive Disorder
D. Conduct Disorder
What do you think?
Let's look at DSM criteria for the offered diagnoses and narrow
our way down to an answer.
Conduct disorder is characterized by theft, destruction of
property, and other serious rules violations. Not what's being
Intermittent explosive disorder involves tantrums and a failure
to control aggressive impulses over a year-long period. Closer, but
not the best fit.
Oppositional defiant disorder looks good for this. It involves
everything mentioned--anger and irritability, defiance, and
vindictiveness. That's your best bet...but read the find print. To
diagnose ODD, behaviors have to be present for six months. This
month-long onset of symptoms looks to be connected to the start of
a new school year--something many have first-hand experience
That leaves one answer: A, no diagnosis.
How best to help the distressed client and her son? That's a
question for another vignette. But normalizing and assessing
stressors from school seem like good places to start.
For lots more vignette practice covering the wide range of
material that can appear on the social work exam, try our
full-length practice tests. Get started