Every child exhibits oppositional behavior at different times in their lives. Some children are described as strong-willed or very independent which can certainly be true. However, when the negative behavior frequently reoccurs while becoming more intense over a long period of time, consider having your child evaluated for an Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Oppositional Defiant Disorder typically rears its willful head during the early childhood years. It is characterized by defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior towards adults, authority figures, and sometimes peers. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, one to sixteen percent of all school-age children have ODD.

There are not any specifically known causes for ODD, although biological, psychological, and environmental factors can play a role. For example, a child’s naturally headstrong disposition or a developmental delay could be part of the reason, while harsh discipline, lack of supervision, or a co-existing disorder could also be contributing influences.


Children with ODD are argumentative, disrespectful, annoying, and antagonistic. They often blame others for mistakes, and can even be spiteful or vindictive. What can be even more frustrating to both the parent and child is that the child doesn’t see his behavior as defiant or out of line. Instead, the child usually feels that he is receiving unwarranted criticism and punishment.

However, if these negative behaviors are persistent for six months or more while disrupting the home and/or school environment, the child should be evaluated. If left unmanaged, the child could suffer from low self-esteem, have academic problems, and be unable to maintain friendships – all of which could have long lasting ramifications.

It is also possible for a child to have two or more co-existing disorders such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Bipolar Disorder, which is referred to as “comorbidity.”  They are simultaneously treated the same way with a comprehensive therapy plan and appropriate medications.


If you think your child may be suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, don’t wait to get help. Talk to your family doctor or a child psychologist at the earliest opportunity. A proper diagnosis and early intervention is important to get your child on the fast track to success in school and at home. It can also help to provide parents and caregivers with the resources needed to care for a challenging child.

A good mental health professional can give your child a comprehensive evaluation based on a wide range of factors. This information will be critical in helping the professional reach a diagnosis so that a child receives the appropriate treatment and gets him on the path of stability.



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