Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A child whose behavior is overly hostile, negative, and purposefully disobedient much of the time for a period of more than six months may have oppositional (op-uh-ZIH-shun-ul) defiant (dee-FY-unt) disorder.

What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a type of disruptive behavior problem in children. Children with ODD often lose their temper, act stubborn and willful, argue, and refuse to follow rules, and they may annoy others on purpose. Some oppositional behavior is quite common and normal in children. An example of oppositional behavior is refusing to follow rules, directions, or requests given by adults in charge. While all children may act in these ways occasionally, ODD is diagnosed in those children who act in these ways frequently and whose oppositional behavior seriously interferes with their ability to get along with others in school, on the playground, or at home. ODD can start as early as the preschool years and can be diagnosed in children and adolescents of any age whose defiant behavior is the cause of problems at home, in school, or with peers. Children with ODD have at least four of the following problem behaviors to a greater degree than expected for their age for at least six months:

Children with ODD are often set in their ways (inflexible) and stubborn. They may have other problems as well, such as hyperactivity * , anxiety * , or depression * . ODD is sometimes an early sign of another behavioral disorder called conduct disorder * . Some, but not all, children with ODD go on to show signs of conduct disorder when they are older. While there are some similarities between ODD and conduct disorder, children and adolescents with ODD do not demonstrate the physical aggression or property destruction that is typical of those with conduct disorder.

What Causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Family environment also can contribute to oppositional defiant disorder. In families in which there is a great deal of conflict, harsh discipline, aggressive behavior, or inconsistent rules for behavior, children are more likely to develop oppositional defiant disorder because they are learning to relate to others in hostile, argumentative ways.

How Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treated?

Children with oppositional defiant disorder may work with a mental health expert. Often children with ODD are referred by their parents or by school personnel because their behavior is so difficult to manage. Treatment involves helping the child learn to handle frustration, develop more cooperative forms of behavior, and acquire more skills for solving problems and adapting to situations. Parents may be coached to make clear and simple rules for the child, to reward the child's positive behavior patterns, and to enforce consequences for the oppositional ones. When oppositional defiant disorder is treated early, more serious problems with conduct disorder may be prevented.

See also Conduct Disorder


Books and Articles

Barkley, Russell A., and Christine M. Benton. Your Defiant Child: 8 Steps to Better Behavior, Second Edition. New York: The Guilford Press, 2013.

Greene, Ross W. The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks, 2014.

Napoli, Denise. “Oppositional Defiant Disorder Linked to Symptoms of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder.” Clinical Psychiatry News Digital Network. June 13, 2012. http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/specialty-focus/schizophrenia/single-article-page/oppositional-defiant-disorder-linked-to-symptoms-of-schizophrenia-spectrum-disorder/9c7389cc42c42d0f7a740e3e6cbcaa4e.html (accessed November 22, 2015).


Boston Children's Hospital. “Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children.” http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/oppositional-defiant-disorder (accessed November 22, 2015).

Health Library. “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/mental_health_disorders/oppositional_defiant_disorder_90,P02573/ (accessed November 22, 2015).

Merck Manual: Consumer Version. “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.” http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/mental-health-disorders-in-children-and-adolescents/oppositional-defiant-disorder (accessed November 22, 2015).


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 3615 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016. Telephone: 202-966-7300. Website: http://www.aacap.org (accessed October 23, 2015).

American Psychiatric Association. 1000 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1825, Arlington, VA 22209. Toll-free: 888-357-7924. Website: http://www.psych.org (accessed August 12, 2015).

Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health. 919 Second St., N.E., Canton, OH 44704. Telephone: 330-454-7917. Website: http://childandadolescent.org (accessed November 22, 2015).

Child Mine Institute. 445 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022. Telephone: 212-308-3118. Website: http://www.childmind.org (accessed November 22, 2015).

* hyperactivity (hy-per-ak-TI-vi-tee) is overly active behavior, which makes it hard for a person to sit still.

* anxiety (ang-ZY-e-tee) can be experienced as a troubled feeling, a sense of dread, fear of the future, or distress over a possible threat to a person's physical or mental well-being.

* depression (de-PRESH-un) is a mental state characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, and discouragement.

* conduct disorder is diagnosed in children and adolescents who have had serious problems with lying, stealing, and aggressive behavior for at least six months.

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

(MLA 8th Edition)