Image courtesy of supakitmod at

Image courtesy of supakitmod at

What is ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder or ODD as its name suggests is behavioral disorder problem that occurs mostly in children under the age of 12 where the child is constantly disobedient or hostile. ODD is not as rare as we think it is – one out of 10 children is thought to exhibit this disorder. It’s not clear why but young boys tend to outnumber little girls when it comes to displaying ODD – the ratio of boys to girls is two to one.

ODD belongs to a group of behavioral disorders that you may be familiar with such as conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

If left untreated childhood ODD can continue into adulthood where they display antisocial behavior. Examples include marital discord, dysfunctional family life, job prospects and social life. In extreme cases untreated ODD may result in jail time for breaking the law.

How do I know if my child has ODD?

It is important to be able to differentiate if your child has ODD or is just being occasionally irritable. You might think most children are sweet but ODD is known to impact children as young as three-years-old. Some behaviors displayed by children suffering from ODD may include:

  • Being angry, irritable or cranky for silly reasons and at everything
  • Temper tantrums will be routine in your household
  • Arguing with parents, teachers, friends or grandparents
  • Disobeying and constantly breaking rules
  • Takes joy in annoying people, sadistic
  • Suffers from low self confidence
  • Easily frustrated
  • Often blames everyone else for his or her problems

ODD progresses to conduct disorder (CD)

Sometimes parents think their child is just stressed and make the situation worse by not seeking help for the child’s temper tantrums. Instead of getting better ODD if ignored results in conduct disorder often characterized by juvenile delinquent behaviors such as,

  • Dishonesty
  • Sadistic behavior
  • Bullying
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Constantly defying law by damaging public property

What causes behavior disorders in children?

The exact cause for ODD is yet to be determined but experts suggest the environment at home plays an important role in shaping the child’s behavior. If the parents are constantly fighting at home then the child is more likely to be frustrated and angry all the time.

Some other reasons include,

  • Domestic violence at home
  • Poor parenting skills
  • Poverty and neglect
  • Sexual and physical abuse by adults
  • Drugs and alcohol

How can ODD be diagnosed?

ODD is diagnosed by a,

  • Child psychologist
  • Child psychiatrist or
  • Pediatrician specializing in ODD

Diagnosis often involves speaking to parent, teachers and other adults around the child and comparing the answers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association.

ODD treatment

Treatment of ODD focuses on both the child and parents. Treatment options include,

Teaching mum and dad to deal with ODD: Training is offered to parents so that they learn how to set rules with a child when a child acts out. Parental training is effective in treating ODD and is often the first choice of treatment. Being trained in parental groups increases social support.

Consistent care: Everyone interacting with the child is taught to behave in a caring and loving manner.

Family therapy: Family members are taught effective ways of communicating instead of arguing or getting angry at home.

Where can I get help for ODD?

  • Your GP
  • Child psychologist
  • Child psychiatrist
  • Pediatrician
  • Specialist Children’s Services, Department of Human Services
  • The Resource Centre for Child Health and Safety
  • Association for Children with a Disability

ODD in a nutshell

  • ODD is a childhood behavioral problem where the child is hostile and defiant.
  • The quality of home environment and parental skills determine if a child is going to develop ODD.
  • Treatment of ODD often includes parental training.