Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

All children are oppositional from time to time, particularly when tired, hungry, stressed or upset.  They may argue, talk back, disobey, and defy parents, teachers, and other adults.  Oppositional behavior is often a normal part of development for two to three year olds and early adolescents.  However, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child’s social, family and academic life.

In children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the youngster’s day to day functioning.  Symptoms of ODD may include:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Often questioning rules
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Frequent anger and resentment
  • Mean and hateful talking when upset
  • Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

The symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings, but may be more noticeable at home or at school.  One to sixteen percent of all school-age children and adolescents have ODD.  The causes of ODD are unknown, but many parents report that their child with ODD was more rigid and demanding that the child’s siblings from an early age.  Biological, psychological and social factors may have a role.

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