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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in Children

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a behavioural disorder that mainly affects young children and is characterized by a pattern of repetitive and consistent disobedience, opposition and defiance towards authority figures.

While most parents can probably identify those traits in their children from time to time, children with ODD persist in these behaviours for at least six months. ODD can cause significant emotional issues within the family unit, as well as affect the child’s learning and social development.

The primary causes of ODD appear to be family-related, with ODD being more common in dysfunctional households, or where there is serious conflict between parents.

Signs And Symptoms

Signs of ODD generally begin before a child is 8 years old. Sometimes ODD may develop later, but almost always before the early teen years. When ODD behaviour develops, the signs tend to begin gradually and then worsen over months or years.

Your child may be displaying signs of ODD instead of normal moodiness if the behaviours:

  • Are persistent
  • Have lasted at least six months
  • Are clearly disruptive to the family and home or school environment

The following are behaviours associated with ODD:

  • Negativity
  • Defiance
  • Disobedience
  • Hostility directed toward authority figures

These behaviours might cause your child to regularly and consistently:

  • Have temper tantrums
  • Be argumentative with adults
  • Refuse to comply with adult requests or rules
  • Annoy other people deliberately
  • Blames others for mistakes or misbehaviour
  • Acts touchy and is easily annoyed
  • Feel anger and resentment
  • Be spiteful or vindictive
  • Act aggressively toward peers
  • Have difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Have academic problems
  • Feel a lack of self-esteem

Risk Factors

Possible risk factors include:

  • Being abused or neglected
  • Harsh or inconsistent discipline
  • Lack of supervision
  • Lack of positive parental involvement
  • Having parents with a severely troubled marriage
  • Parents with a history of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder or conduct problems
  • Financial problems in the family
  • Family instability such as occurs with divorce, multiple moves, or changing schools or child care providers frequently

Stressful changes that disrupt a child’s sense of consistency — such as divorce or changing child care — increase the risk of disruptive behaviour. However, though these changes may help explain disrespectful or oppositional behaviour, they don’t excuse it. If you’re concerned about your child’s behaviour or trouble adjusting to life changes, talk with your doctor


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