Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

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Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavior disorder in which the child is hostile, uncooperative and defiant toward peers, parents and other authority figures. ODD behavior goes beyond the normal defiance seen in other children the same age. It happens more frequently and interferes with the child’s daily life.

Causes and Signs of ODD in Children

Currently, two theories exist for why ODD occurs:

  • Developmental theory suggests that the problems start when children are toddlers. Children with ODD may have had issues becoming independent from a parent or people with whom they are emotionally attached.
  • Learning theory suggests that the symptoms of ODD are attitudes learned from parents or other authority figures. The child engages in these behaviors to gain attention and get a reaction from parents and other adults.

A child with ODD may:

  • Have frequent temper tantrums or arguments with adults
  • Refuse to do what an adult asks
  • Frequently question and refuse to follow rules
  • Speak harshly, unkindly or with an angry attitude
  • Purposely annoy or upset others
  • Blame others for their own misbehavior or mistakes
  • Annoy easily
  • Seek revenge or seem vindictive

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

A child psychiatrist or other qualified mental health provider can diagnose ODD. The provider may want to observe your child and possibly discuss your child’s behavior with their teachers. In some cases, your child may need mental health testing.

Treatment for ODD may depend on your child’s age and the severity of the condition. Treatment may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Peer group therapy
  • Medications