What is ODD in Children?


Children can be challenging and difficult at times. This is normal and part of the process of growing up. But what if your child is extremely defiant, has temper tantrums often, will not follow directions and displays disruptive behaviors often? These displays of behavior are all signs that the child may have a disorder called Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD. According to the Mayo Clinic about one in every 10 children may have ODD.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

According to James Chandler, MD FRCPC the disorder known as ODD is defined as a pattern of hostile, negative and defiant behavior lasting at least six months that is characterized by at least four of the following symptoms: frequent temper loss, argumentative behavior with adults or authority figures, defiance or lack of compliance with rules or requests, deliberate annoyance actions, blaming others for misbehavior, hypersensitivity and annoyance to others, anger and resentment along with spitefulness and vindictiveness.

Suspected Causes

While no known cause of ODD has been specified, there are several factors that are considered to be commonly associated with diagnosed cases of this disorder. Biological conditions such as injury or trauma to certain areas of the brain, neurological dysfunctions and other disorders (e.g. ADD or ADHD) are seen to be contributing factors. Genetic tendencies are also suspected due to family psychiatric histories, as are environmental conditions such as dysfunctional backgrounds and substance abuse.

Risk Factors

According to the Mayo Clinic the complexity of behavioral disorders in general can present a difficulty in a positive and effective diagnosis and treatment therapy. However, certain risk factors are considered in suspected ODD cases that focus on dysfunctional relationships with parents and elders. These factors can include: parents with mood or substance abuse disorders; abuse and neglect; extremely harsh and inconsistent discipline; lack of positive supervision; and exposure to a violent environment.


A thorough and comprehensive evaluation of personal and environmental conditions is vital in addressing the treatment of ODD cases in children. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, programs that include parents and other family members will be part of any treatment program, including individual and family psychotherapy to address defiance and anger issues as well as communication and mutual understanding; cognitive problem-solving training to help the child cope with problematic situations; and social skills training to increase tolerance levels when interacting with others.

Other Treatments

According to Anthony Kane, MD, medication therapy may be indicated for cases of ODD in children. The class of medication prescribed will generally be those that are used to treat ADHD and other behavioral disorders, which are most often of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor class (SRI). Certain alternative supplemental treatments, such as omega-3 oils and vitamin supplements, have been used with a degree of success in other behavior disorders, although there is currently no accepted scientific confirmation of the success of these alternative treatment methods.

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