How to Spot Oppositional Defiant Disorder Syndrome in Your Child

There are many school age children who seem angry and moody, or who throw temper tantrums if they don’t get their way.

We’ve all come across these kids, and sometimes they are our own. Many children grow out of these behavioral issues with time and proper parental management, but if it doesn’t go away, parents would be well to understand how to spot oppositional defiant disorder syndrome (ODD) in their child. This is a behavioral and emotional problem that can have life-long repercussions if not properly addressed as soon as possible.

What Defines a Child or Adolescent with ODD

Most often, oppositional defiant disorder shows up in children by the time they reach age 8. The name is a clear explanation of the syndrome. A child with ODD has obvious signs of defiance and opposition to authority figures and rules.

Diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

In order to be diagnosed with ODD, a child must show chronic and consistent behavioral symptoms for 6 months, and must also exhibit at least 4 of the symptoms in a pervasive pattern.

These behaviors can occur in one setting like at home with family, or in multiple settings such as home, school, and also with peers.

Parents can spot oppositional defiant disorder syndrome in their child with these chronic behaviors:

  • Loses temper often
  • Chronic anger, talks back, resentful, bad language
  • Easily annoyed and moody or touchy
  • Argues and questions authority figures – disrespectful to parents, teachers, any adult
  • Actively refuses to comply with chores, school work, any rules (“You can’t make me”)
  • Blames other people for mistakes or poor behavior
  • Annoys others deliberately
  • Spiteful and vindictive

In short, any level of defiance that can cause problems for the child, the family, or others can be considered ODD.

Untreated ODD

If the syndrome is not recognized or treated early on, the next phase could become something more serious and extreme called Conduct Disorder. This entails aggressive behaviors toward both people and animals, bullying, threatening, intimidation, and behaviors that instigate physical fights.

Consequences of ODD

Without the proper treatment or intervention, social, emotional, and educational consequences will prevail.  

There can be educational difficulties like falling behind in studies for not completing work as directed or being removed from class for bad behavior.

A young person with ODD will find it more difficult to make and keep friends. Relationships with siblings and parents may also be damaged.

A Word of Caution

Many young children can go through phases where they have temper tantrums, yell “NO” for effect, or pick on their brother or sister. These can be normal childlike situations that will disappear with proper discipline and effective modeling. When it continues to happen, and happens all the time –  is the time to be concerned.

When to Seek Help

If you observe the signs of oppositional defiant disorder in your child and/or if their teachers begin to express concern, see Dr. Buenaseda for an evaluation. They may recommend a therapist or mental health professional who will conduct an assessment of your child’s behavior and determine a diagnosis.

Early intervention and treatment can save you and your child from years of unhappiness and frustration.