What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in a Person?

Medically Reviewed on 12/23/2022
What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in a Person
Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) in a child include frequently losing temper, arguing with adults, refusing to follow orders and rules, and others.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavior disorder in which a child displays frequent patterns of anger, arguing, or defiance towards authority figures.

While even well-behaved children can talk back and disobey their parents at times, persistent difficult behavior may be a sign of something more serious. ODD is often diagnosed in childhood, affecting about 3% of the population.

What are the symptoms and characteristics of a person with ODD?

Children with ODD are seen to exhibit uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior. Symptoms of ODD may include:

  • Often and easily loses temper
  • Often and easily annoyed by others
  • Often argues with adults
  • Refuses to comply with adult requests
  • Refuses to follow orders and rules
  • Deliberately tries to annoy or upset people
  • Blames others for their own mistakes or misbehavior
  • Spiteful or vindictive 

Symptoms are often more pronounced at home or school.

Does ODD run in families?

While the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, many parents of children with ODD report noticing anger and temper problems from an early age.

Genetic, psychological, and social factors may have a role in the development of ODD.

What are risk factors for ODD?

Risk factors of ODD include:

  • Harsh or neglectful parenting
  • Highly authoritarian parenting
  • Having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Poor emotion regulation
  • High levels of emotional reactivity
  • Poor frustration tolerance

If a child with a difficult temperament or ADHD grows up in a family with parents who respond to their behavior with harsh parenting, the child has a higher chance of developing ODD. 

Children with ODD often have problems interacting with family members, which then progresses at school and other settings. Problems with teachers and peers may lead to mental health issues such as depression.

Of course, not all children with these risk factors will develop ODD.

What is the best treatment for ODD?

If you are a parent, it is important to identify the signs of oppositional defiant disorder as soon as possible. Early treatment intervention can help improve behavioral symptoms.

Treatment of ODD may involve:

  • Individual psychotherapy to help the child to regulate their emotions, particularly anger
  • Family psychotherapy to improve communication and mutual understanding between the family members and the child
  • Parent management training to help parents and others to deal effectively with the child’s behavior
  • Cognitive problem-solving skills training to reduce negative thought patterns
  • Social skills training to improve social interactions with peers
  • Medications to control some of the more distressing symptoms of ODD
  • Treatment of other coexisting conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Positive parenting techniques are effective at helping a child affected with ODD to improve and regulate their emotions. Parents can help their child by making changes in their own behavior:

  • Offering rewards or words of appreciation when the child shows improvement in regulating their emotions
  • Controlling their emotions and not overreacting to the child’s tantrums
  • Picking their battles and avoiding power struggles
  • Setting reasonable, age-appropriate limits and explaining to their child that they will need to face the consequences if those limits are crossed
  • Connecting with parent support groups
  • Managing stress levels 


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Medically Reviewed on 12/23/2022
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Oppositional Defiant Disorder. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/918095-overview#