The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate mothers' perceptions of family climate in families with a conduct disordered child in comparison with families with a normal child. Mothers in 19 families with an independently diagnosed conduct disordered child and their 19 matched comparison mothers completed the Moos Family Environment Scale. In addition 9 mothers and their conduct disordered children and their matched comparisons were video-taped interacting in their homes. Mothers with a conduct disordered child perceived the family climate as less cohesive, less encouraging of the expression of feeling and more conflictual than their counterparts. The same mothers also perceived families to be more control oriented and less organized than their matched controls. Independent behavioural observations supported the view that the mothers with conduct disordered children were control oriented.