As most parents know, children can be emotional or strong-willed. But a child who has frequent temper tantrums and consistently refuses to follow requests may have a deeper problem. Defiance and aggressiveness that continue could be a sign of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
Children with ODD may refuse to follow commands or requests made by parents, teachers, or other adults. They may also overreact to life events. They may fail to take responsibility for their actions. ODD is commonly linked with these behaviors:
Frequent temper tantrums
Arguments with adults
Deliberately annoying others
Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
Being resentful, spiteful, or vindictive
Being aggressive toward peers, and angry or disruptive toward adults
ODD is different from normal behavior because it continues longer. Children with ODD typically show bad behavior for at least six months. This behavior disrupts the family and the classroom. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children are diagnosed with ODD only if their behavior goes beyond what is considered normal for children of the same age.
Before puberty, ODD is more common in boys. After puberty, it occurs almost equally among boys and girls. ODD has no clear cause. The behaviors appear to arise from a combination of genetics and poor parent-child interactions. It may also involve environmental factors that begin in early childhood. Children with ODD often have difficulty making friends. This is because they view other children's behavior as hostile and respond aggressively.
Treatment is important because a child’s development, relationships, and education are at risk if the disorder is not treated. In addition, ODD may lead to a more serious disorder called conduct disorder. A child or teen with this disorder may harm or threaten people or animals, damage property, or become sexually precocious.
Parents who are think their child may have ODD should seek help from their child's health care provider, a child psychologist, or child behavior expert. Diagnosing ODD can be difficult and should be handled by a provider who has experience with the disorder.