Children who display recurring patterns of anger, defiance and uncooperative behavior toward authority are sometimes classified as having Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD. While several factors can contribute to ODD, for most children, the condition is treatable with psychotherapy, parental management training, and consistency.

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Clinicians often group the signs of oppositional defiant disorder into three categories anger with irritability, defiant behavior, or vindictiveness. These are patterns of behavior that often manifest toward individuals or organizations with authority

The sometimes-hostile behaviors of ODD can easily disrupt a child’s normal daily functioning. As time goes on it can also cause collateral damage to their relationships as well as affect their activities with family members and their peers. ODD often creates academic challenges, which can hamper the child’s progress in school.

ODD is most common in children and can manifest as early as two to three years of age, and persist into the child’s early teenage years. Children struggling with ODD behavior patterns often express their defiance by being overly argumentative, disobeying parents and teachers, or talking back to adults with authority in their lives.

While it’s not uncommon for children of any age to display defiant behavior, ODD starts to apply when these negative behavior patterns last more than six months.

Statistically male children are more likely to develop oppositional defiant disorder before the age of 8. Though the presence of ODD tends to be equal in both males and females in the adolescent teenage years.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder & Other Mental Health Conditions

A lot of children and adolescents who display ODD also have at least one other mental health condition. This can include things like

  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity/disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • An impulse control disorder

Approximately 25% to 30% of children with oppositional defiant disorder will go on to develop a more serious behavioral health condition known as Conduct Disorder.

The Ramifications of Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder manifests in the child as a long-term pattern of antisocial behavior. Children with conduct disorder often disregard basic social standards and rules. This often leads to a general pattern or irresponsible behavior which can create greater negative consequences over time.

In a child with untreated conduct, disorder reaches adolesce the behavior can manifest as an ongoing pattern of aggression toward others. Many of these children will display serious violations of rules as well as social norms. They will act out at home, and in school as well as having negative interactions with peers.

Adolescents who are struggling with conduct disorder stemming from the untreated oppositional defiant disorder often have legal problems, which can hamper their education and affect their transition into healthy adulthood. Children and teens with conduct disorders are also more likely to get injured while engaging in antisocial behaviors.

Signs of Conduct Disorder

It’s important to note that just like oppositional defiant disorder Conduct Disorder is a long-term behavior pattern. This includes a child doing things like:

  • Breaking serious rules at home
  • Refusing to follow the roles and codes at school
  • Truancy and skipping school
  • Bullying
  • Fighting with other children
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Generally aggressive behavior
  • Dishonest behavior, frequently lying for no reason
  • Stealing
  • Vandalism and damaging other people’s property

Understanding the Difference Between ODD & ADHD

Oppositional defiant disorder often manifests as a comorbidity of other mental health conditions. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the more common conditions that occur along with ODD behavior.

These two conditions commonly occur together, even though they are distinctly different conditions. They also share some similarities in treatment. Though there are also differences in how you treat each condition that makes it hard to cover both under one blanket treatment strategy, without professional intervention.

ODD classifies by a child’s conduct, including how they interact with authority figures in their life like parents, teachers, and peers. Whereas ADHD is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes the individual to be easily distracted, overly anxious, excitable, disorganized, and excessively restless.

Increased Risk Factors for ODD

While the underlying cause of oppositional defiant disorder isn’t 100% clear, clinicians note that there are some risk factors that many children with ODD share. This can include things like:

  • A history of child abuse
  • Incidents of child neglect
  • A parent with a diagnosed mood disorder
  • A parent with substance abuse issues
  • Early exposure to violence
  • Inconsistent discipline caused by a lack of adult supervision.
  • Instability in their family dynamic such as divorce
  • Frequently changing schools
  • Family financial problems
  • A parent with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder

The underlying cause of oppositional defiant disorder is unclear. However, a lot of clinicians find a combination of psychological, social, and biological factors.

Some ODD symptoms can also be linked to prenatal smoke exposure, toxin exposure, or poor maternal nutrition. These are things that might affect early brain development and/or affect brain chemistry in a young child.

Statistically, oppositional defiant disorder tends to be more common in children who have relatives with ODD, conduct disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, or substance abuse issues. So, while there seems to be genetics at play, clinical researchers haven’t yet pinpointed a specific gene responsible for triggering ODD.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Child Has ODD

Teachers and parents are usually the first to identify oppositional behavior in a child. These are behavior patterns that last for six months or more, which may or may not be linked to major events in a child’s life.

If you suspect that your child has ODD, the first thing to do is schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional. They will conduct an evaluation to rule out other conditions such as anxiety or mood disorders.

They can also help you understand what you can do to help your child manage their ODD symptoms, as well as develop a treatment strategy to reduce the chances of ODD progressing into conduct disorder.

Is It Possible for a Child to Outgrow Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

It’s important to understand that ODD isn’t a “Phase” that your child will grow out of naturally on their own. Some adults have oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.