Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

Oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD) is a disorder in which a child exhibits outbursts of destructive behavior. A child with ODD will show patterns defiance, rage, and resentment. A child with ODD is often angry, irritable, and unpredictable. These behavioral issues often cause issues in the home and at school or day care.

A child with ODD is uncooperative with peers and authority figures. He or she may fail to acknowledge or understand his or her behavioral issues. This poses a challenge when enforcing consequences and punishments for bad behavior. It also can cause a challenge with rewarding and reinforcing good behavior.

A child up to 10 years of age can be diagnosed with ODD. Without proper treatment, ODD can progress to a diagnosis of conduct disorder.

Symptoms of Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

All children have a healthy dose of questioning authority and bad behavior. Testing the boundaries in the home, at school, and with peers is natural. It is considered diagnosable ODD when this behavior becomes problematic for the child’s development and destructive to the wellbeing of peers and authority figures.

Symptoms of ODD cause a significant impairment in social, behavioral and cognitive development. One or two of the symptoms listed alone are not sufficient for diagnosis. Ongoing patterns of several of the following symptoms can be considered warning signs of ODD:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Anger outbursts
  • Rage
  • Episodic mood swings
  • Argumentative behavior
  • Irritability
  • Uncooperative behavior
  • Social issues
  • Resentful toward authority figures and peers
  • Acts of defiance
  • Refusal to follow rules
  • Disregard or lack of concern for rules and
  • Evading responsibility for actions
  • Blaming others for their actions or poor behavior
  • Dishonesty

Causes of Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

There are several factors that may contribute to a child developing ODD. A combination of the following factors may contribute to the onset of ODD:

Biological Factors

Some biological factors may contribute to the onset of ODD. Such factors include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury. A child may exhibit signs of ODD if he or she suffered from a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury could have happened during childbirth or from an accident.
  • A Co-occurring Mental Health Disorder. Such mental health disorders that may lead to ODD include:
  • Grief and bereavement
  • Genetics and Heredity. Evidence supports there may be a genetic or hereditary component to the onset of ODD. Having a direct family member with similar behavioral issues increases the risk of developing ODD.

Environmental Factors

There are several environmental factors that may contribute to the onset of ODD, like:

  • Attachment issues to parents or guardians
  • Having a mother who suffered from postpartum depression
  • Disciplinarian parenting styles
  • A lack of supervision in the home
  • Cases of abuse or neglect
  • Growing up in an unsafe environment
  • Being exposed to an environment with high criminal activity
  • A lack of emotional support from parents or guardians
  • Failure to learn healthy ways to express emotions
  • Having a direct family member who suffers from a mental health disorder
  • Having a direct family member with a history of criminal activity
  • Attending a school with poor supervision
  • Attending a school with a lack of resources to meet the child’s needs
  • Poor academic performance
  • Lack of consistency at home or at school

Treatment Options for Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

For best results, a case of ODD must be treated early. A case of undiagnosed ODD can carry with a child into adulthood. It will cause the child to be at increased risk of depression and criminal or antisocial behaviors. Untreated cases of ODD are at high risk of developing into conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

The following treatment options have been found to be effective in the treatment of ODD:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

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