Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Even the most well-behaved children may be difficult and challenging at times. In fact, at certain developmental stages, it would be unusual if they do not throw any tantrums or meltdowns. Oftentimes, small amounts of this constitute a healthy and essential part of growing up.

However, if there is a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance, or vindictiveness towards parents or other authority figures which is age-inappropriate, this may indicate Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).


Signs of ODD

  • Angry and irritable mood
  • Deliberate defiance of adults or people in authority
  • Blames others for their mistakes or misbehaviour
  • Spiteful or vindictive


Severity of ODD

  • Mild: Symptoms only occur in one setting
  • Moderate: Some symptoms occur in at least 2 settings
  • Severe: Some symptoms occur in 3 or more settings

ODD has a tendency to co-occur with other disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder, Anxiety, and Learning Disorders. It is important to address these other conditions as well, as treating them may improve ODD symptoms.


Risk Factors

Certain factors that might increase one's risk of developing ODD include:

  • A temperament that includes difficulty regulating emotions, such as being highly emotionally reactive to situations or having trouble tolerating frustration
  • Parenting issues where a child experiences abuse, harsh or inconsistent discipline, or neglect
  • Environmental factors such as peers or poor discipline from authority figures and parents may reinforce oppositional and defiant behaviours



Ideally, intervention should involve therapy for both the child and the parent or family. Parents and family members play a key role in a child’s development and teaching parents how to manage their child could be extremely helpful. Some ways in which parents can be involved include:

  • Parent Management Training (PMT) to equip parents with skills to improve parent-child interaction and parenting behaviours. This includes ways to better monitor a child's behaviour, communicate instructions clearly and effectively, and use rewards and punishments.
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) are more appropriate for parents with younger children (ie. preschool and early school-aged children). PCIT integrates play therapy and operant behavioural therapy approaches to improve parent-child relationships and address behavioural problems.
  • Problem-Solving Skills Training (PSST) is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that focuses on correcting cognitive distortions to more helpful patterns of thinking.


If your child exhibits signs that may indicate ODD, you can consider seeking help from a mental health professional with expertise in disruptive behavior problems. Please remember that you do not have to experience this alone. Moreover, early intervention can help improve your child’s behaviour and prevent the situation from worsening. Treatment can effectively restore your child’s self-esteem and help to build positive parent-child relationships.

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