Oppositional defiant disorder  (ODD) is a childhood disorder that is defined by a pattern of hostile, disobedient, and defiant behaviors directed at adults or other authority figures. ODD is also characterized by children displaying angry and irritable moods, as well as argumentative and vindictive behaviors.There’s no known clear cause of oppositional defiant disorder. Contributing causes may be a combination of inherited and environmental factors, including:

  • Genetics— a child’s natural disposition or temperament and possibly neurobiological differences in the way nerves and the brain function
  • Environment— problems with parenting that may involve a lack of supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, or abuse or neglect

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of ODD will vary from person to person. There may also be a significant difference in how the symptoms present themselves in boys as opposed to how they are presented in girls.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Easily losing one’s temper / throwing repeated temper tantrums
  • Arguing
  • Fighting
  • Refusing to follow rules
  • Deliberately acting in a way that will annoy others
  • Blaming others
  • Blatant hostility towards others
  • Being unwilling to compromise or negotiate
  • Willingly destroying friendships
  • Being spiteful and seeking revenge
  • Blatant and repeated disobedience

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Frequent frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Failure to “think before speaking”

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Difficulty making friends
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Persistent negativity
  • Consistent feelings of annoyance

 Risk factors

  • Temperament— a child who has a temperament that includes difficulty regulating emotions, such as being highly emotionally reactive to situations or having trouble tolerating frustration
  • Parenting issues— a child who experiences abuse or neglect, harsh or inconsistent discipline, or a lack of parental supervision
  • Other family issues— a child who lives with parent or family discord or has a parent with a mental health or substance use disorder
  • Environment— oppositional and defiant behaviors can be strengthened and reinforced through attention from peers and inconsistent discipline from other authority figures, such as teachers


  • Poor school and work performance
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Impulse control problems
  • Substance use disorder
  • Suicide


There’s no guaranteed way to prevent oppositional defiant disorder. However, positive parenting and early treatment can help improve behavior and prevent the situation from getting worse. The earlier that ODD can be managed, the better.

Treatment can help restore your child’s self-esteem and rebuild a positive relationship between you and your child. Your child’s relationships with other important adults in his or her life — such as teachers and care providers — also will benefit from early treatment.

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