Oppositional Defiance Disorder

What is oppositional defiance disorder?

In children with oppositional defiance 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.

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.

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

Oppositional defiance disorder and conduct disorder are both results of a combination of a metabolic dysfunction and environmental factors.

There is evidence from research into causes of conduct disorders that indicates that inter-parental conflicts surrounding divorce have been associated with the development of conduct disorder.

It should be noted that although some single parents and their children become chronically depressed and report increased stress levels after separation, others do relatively well.

Divorce and marital conflict

For some single parents, the events surrounding separation and divorce set off a period of increased depression and irritability. This possibly sets in place more irritability, ineffective discipline, and poor problem solving outcomes. This can result in more depression, and simultaneously lead the child to become antisocial.

Also the intensity of conflict and discord between the parents, rather than divorce itself, is the significant factor.

Children of divorced parents with homes free from conflict, are less likely to have problems than children whose parents remained together but engaged in a great deal of conflict, or those who continued to have conflict after divorce.

In addition, marital conflict has been associated with inconsistent parenting, higher levels of punishment with a concurrent reduction in reasoning and rewards, as well as with parents taking a negative perception of their child's adjustment.

Parent Management Training

A child presenting with Oppositional defiance disorder symptoms should have a comprehensive evaluation. It is important to look for other disorders which may be present: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder) and anxiety disorders.

It may be difficult to improve the symptoms of ODD without treating the coexisting disorder. Some children with ODD may go on to develop conduct disorder.

Medication may be helpful in controlling some of the more distressing symptoms of ODD as well as the symptoms related to coexistent conditions such as ADHD, anxiety and mood disorders.

Many children with ODD will respond to the positive parenting techniques. Parents may ask their pediatrician or family physician to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist or qualified mental health professional who can diagnose and treat ODD and any coexisting psychiatric condition.

A Parent Management Training Program may help parents and others manage the child's behavior.

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