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Children and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Updated on September 30, 2009


Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a psychiatric behavior disorder, characterized by aggressiveness and tendencies to purposefully interrupt or irritate others.


Children with ODD consistently refuse to follow directions or requests made by adults. These children constantly lose their temper, argue with adults, and will not comply with or follow rules. They are easily annoyed and always blame others for their mistakes. Children suffering from ODD are stubborn and will test limitations set by adults, even in early childhood.

Common ODD behavioral symptoms can include: (1) loss of temper, (2) argumentative, (3) defiant, (4) refusing to follow orders, (5) deliberately annoy others, (6) deny mistakes, (7) easily irritated, (8) verbally abusive, and (9) are revengeful.

Oftentimes, children between the ages of 2 and 3 display some of these traits. But, children with ODD demonstrate these actions excessively, even to the extent that learning, school adjustment, and social relationships become problematic and difficult.


To determine if the child has ODD, usually a complete comprehensive evaluation needs to be done by a mental health professional. Quite often ODD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are present, and go hand-in-hand. However, ADHD mood and anxiety disorders must be addressed prior to working with the ODD component.

If you believe your child might have ODD, the following eight behavior traits may provide some answers. If you can answer yes to four of the eight behaviors listed, your child might have ODD.

  1. Loses temper at least twice a week.

  2. Argues with adults at least twice a week.

  3. Defies or refuses to follow or comply with adult's requests or rules at least twice a week.

  4. Deliberately annoys others at least four times a week.

  5. Blames others for his/her mistakes or misbehavior at least once during the past three months.

  6. Became irritated or easily annoyed by others at least twice a week.

  7. Is angry or resentful at least four times per week.

  8. Acts spiteful or vindictive at least once during the past three months.


Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes ODD. However, scientists have suggested two theories concerning the disorder. One theory is that the children have not completed developmental tasks that other children learn easily during their toddler years. The second theory is that ODD is a response to negative interactions, such as discipline or morality techniques used by parents or other authority figures.

ODD is a common psychiatric diagnosis in children, and usually persists into adulthood. While much research studies have been done about ADHD and mood disorders in children, very little research has been done on ODD.

Often, Oppositional Defiant Disorder works hand-in-hand with other disorders. Studies indicate that 50-65% of ODD children also have ADHD, and 35% of these children develop some form of affective disorders. Mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety for found in 20% of ODD children. And, studies show that 15% will develop personality disorders.


What will happen to these children? Some scientists suggest four possibilities.

  1. Some children will grow out of the ODD. However, 75% of the children over the age of 8 will continue to display the Oppositional Defiant Disorder traits into adulthood.

  2. Perhaps the ODD may turn into something more. Studies indicate that 5-10% of preschoolers change from ODD to ADHD. The defiant behavior can get worse, and these children eventually are diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.

  3. Or, the child may continue to have ODD without developing anything else. But, this is unusual.

  4. And, it is common for the child to develop other disorders in addition to ODD.


Managing this disorder with treatment and medication is important. Medication cannot make the children “normal,” but it can make a big difference in their behavior. Participation in a parent-training program is essential, and may not work for everyone, but for now, it's the best treatment available.

If your child is diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, you need to take care of yourself. Turning into a martyr will not help the situation. It is important that you maintain interests other than your ODD child. Strive to work with and get support from other adults that deal with your child, such as teachers and coaches. Manage your own stress with exercise and relaxation. And, take frequent breaks or vacations to allow yourself a change of scenery because you need to take care of yourself.

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