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Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is when your child's behavior is frequently negative and aggressive. Your child may be irritable and argue, throw tantrums, and disobey. Your child may act out only at home or in many settings, such as school. ODD behavior is usually much more hostile than typical behavior of children the same age. Children with ODD often have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

What increases my child's risk for ODD?

  • Abusive parents or parents who punish harshly
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Delays in development
  • Frequent moves or changes in schools or in home caregivers
  • Lack of supervision in the home
  • Parental conflict or divorce
  • Parental drug or alcohol abuse, or parental mental illness

What specific behaviors are common with ODD?

Your child may do any of the following:

  • Anger easily, argue, throw tantrums, treat others poorly, or seek revenge
  • Annoy others on purpose, which may result in not having many friends
  • Blame others for his mistakes and behaviors.
  • Refuse to follow directions at home or in school, which may result in poor grades in school
  • Swear and say hurtful things to others
  • Try to explain behavior so he does not get in trouble

How is ODD diagnosed?

Your child may be diagnosed with ODD if he has had 4 ODD behaviors for at least 6 months. The behaviors must cause problems in school, at home, or work.

How is ODD treated?

Ask for more information about these and other treatments for ODD:

  • Medicines may be given if your child also has depression, anxiety, or ADHD.
  • Behavior therapy is done to help your child learn new ways to react to situations. Your child may be rewarded for behavioral reactions that are positive. Therapy can also help your child learn talk about his feelings more easily.
  • Family therapy helps families develop coping skills and understand ways to improve behaviors. This may include adding more structure into your daily life with specific rules and actions to take if rules are not followed. Interactions with your child may be monitored to help you learn new ways to parent your child with ODD.
  • Skills therapy is done to help your child interact appropriately in social situations.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I help manage my child's behavior?

  • Do not argue with your child. Try to stay calm and show little or no expression when you have a disagreement.
  • Give your child positive feedback when earned. Positive words or rewards when your child follows rules will help promote good behaviors.
  • Have your child take a time out for negative behavior. This will allow your child time to relax and rethink his behavior.
  • Set limits and tell your child what you expect from him. Keep your child on a daily schedule. Set family meal times and one on one times between parent and child. Give your child chores to complete with clear instructions on how to do them.
  • Monitor your child for alcohol and drug use. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if you think he is using alcohol or drugs.
  • Offer choices when appropriate so your child does not feel that all control is being taken away.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    3615 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington , DC 20016
    Phone: 1- 202 - 966-7300
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's behaviors do not improve, even with treatment.
  • Your child cannot make it to his next therapy appointment.
  • You feel like hurting your child.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child talks about hurting himself or others.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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