Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)



Imagine having a child that is constantly misbehaving. Well, you might think, that’s normal right? Interestingly enough, some children despite being disciplined, are constantly acting out and tend to display intense anger issues. These children often ignore everything you tell them to do, cause arguments for no apparent reason, and blame you or everyone else for their mistakes. Some children do exhibit troublesome behavior, but when it reaches to an unusual amount of defying behavior it is considered as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). According to Brunilda Nazario, MD, “ODD is a behavior disorder in which a child displays a pattern of an angry or cranky mood, defiant or combative behavior, and vindictiveness toward people in authority. The child’s behavior often disrupts their daily routine, including activities within the family and at school.” (Nazario, 2020)




Diagnosis & Symptoms

So how does one get diagnosed with ODD? It is difficult to spot this illness as many children present behavior problems when they are young. One way to tell if a child has ODD is if their defiant behavior is unusually consistent and prevents them from leading normal relationships with family and friends. A child may have ODD if the following symptoms persist for six or more months.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, symptoms of ODD may include: (Medicine, 2021)

  • Having frequent temper tantrums
  • Arguing a lot with adults
  • Refusing to do what an adult asks
  • Always questioning rules and refusing to follow rules
  • Doing things to annoy or upset others, including adults
  • Blaming others for the child’s own misbehaviors or mistakes
  • Being easily annoyed by others
  • Often having an angry attitude
  • Speaking harshly or unkindly
  • Seeking revenge or being vindictive



Causes of ODD

While there is no specific cause for ODD there are some theories that explain how a child can obtain this illness. If a child is born into an overly strict family, and not been given the freedom to choose or be how they wish to, as they get older, they may show increased deviant behavior. According to the learning theory, ODD represents learned behavior that gets reinforced by adults. An example might be giving attention to negative behavior, when this is done, the child will keep repeating the negative behavior as a way to get attention. Some other reasons a child might get ODD is due to biological reasons such as brain chemistry and injuries to the brain. According to Brunilda Nazario, MD, “ODD has been linked to certain types of brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, that don’t work the right way.” (Nazario, 2020) Other reasons are if a child already has a disorder such as ADHD, comorbidity may occur. Family history and family issues play a big role in determining whether a child can develop ODD. If the child is not in a healthy environment where they can receive the proper discipline and attention from their parents, they are more likely to have ODD.



Treatment for ODD

Children benefit most from Psychotherapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy when it comes to ODD. With psychotherapy the child will be able to develop coping strategies, improve their social skills, and reshape their behavior. Another beneficial therapy is Family Therapy. With this therapy communication can be improved within the household, and parents can learn strategies to reinforce positive behaviors. Children with ODD have a tough time with maintaining healthy relations, they have impulsive behaviors that can cause harm to themselves or others, and it could lead to developing substance abuse issues and even suicidal behavior. This is why it is very important for parents to look out for behaviors from a young age to prevent the situation from further escalating. The sooner parents seek therapy, it can improve the chances of a child with ODD to lead a normal and healthy life.



Tips for Parents

Parents have to be involved every step of the way to improve the outcomes for a child with ODD as this disorder can persist and carry on into adulthood. It can even lead to a more serious disorder known as Conduct Disorder if not properly addressed early on. According to American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Conduct disorder refers to a group of repetitive and persistent behavioral and emotional problems in youngsters. Children and adolescents with this disorder have great difficulty following rules, respecting the rights of others, showing empathy, and behaving in a socially acceptable way.” (“Oppositional Defiant Disorder”, 2019) Conduct Disorder is classified as more serious because sometimes the behavioral issues become so severe that children/adolescents can end up breaking the law. To avoid ODD leading to Conduct Disorder, parents can use the following tips at home to improve behavior and help their young ones.

  • Setting boundaries
  • Modeling behavior
  • Take out time to spend with each other
  • Create tasks your child can do at home
  • Create a routine
  • Don’t fight for power
  • Praise good behavior
  • Reward good behavior
  • Find a support group for yourself
  • Explain a set of rules to other family members to improve communication amongst each other

If you have suspicions that your child might have ODD, seek help from a therapist at the earliest. The sooner your child is diagnosed the better the outcome for improving their day-to- day life. It is equally important to seek help for yourself, as having a child with ODD can be mentally exhausting.

By Vishakha R. Wadhwani


Medicine, J. (2021). Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in Children. Retrieved 7 July 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/oppositional-defiant-disorder

Nazario, B. (2020). Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Retrieved 7 July 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/oppositional-defiant-disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder. (2019). Retrieved 7 July 2021, from https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-With-Oppositional-Defiant-Disorder-072.aspx