Oppositional Defiant Disorder - ODD

Table of Contents

Michelle Barratt Psychology is a Toowong and Redland Bay / Wynnum – Manly Clinical Psychology Practice, and aims to provide treatment for Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD in Brisbane at the highest standard. The practice values implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support their clients feel safe, heard and understood, but also strives to offer effective treatment that will empower clients to learn new skills to support them in the future. If you are unsure about what you are dealing with, please don’t hesitate to contact us to support you through the next step of either working out what to do or how to proceed with an appointment.

Characteristics of ODD

Unlike the challenging of authority figures that is more common in adolescence, ODD emerges earlier – usually before age 8 years.

ODD is characterised by the frequent occurrence of at least four of the following behaviours:

  • Losing temper
  • Often arguing with adults
  • Often actively defying or refusing to comply with the requests
  • or rules of adults
  • Often deliberately doing things that will annoy people
  • Often blaming others for his or her mistakes or behaviour
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Is often angry and resentful
  • Is often spiteful and vindictive

Please note that these behaviours need to exist for a number of months and the disturbance of their behaviours causes severe (clinically) significant problems (impairment) in social, academic, and occupational functioning.​

Criteria for ODD

For ODD contains both emotional (e.g. angry) and behavioural (e.g. argues) indicators. Unfortunately, there is some suggestion that both the emotional and behavioural symptoms of ODD contribute to the prediction of later disruptive/externalizing disorders. However the emotional symptoms of ODD may also contribute uniquely to the prediction of internalizing disorders (Stringaris & Goodman, 2009).

Other behaviours the child can exhibit as they get older may be that they have they have:

  • Fights
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Disobedient
  • Destructive
  • Impertinent
  • Uncooperative
  • Stealing
  • Lying

Many parents will experience behaviours listed above from time to time with their children as oppositional behaviour is a typical transient feature of certain developmental stages (e.g. preschool and adolescence) and can be exacerbated by unexpected change or stressors that present themselves for long periods of time.

Parents must not self-diagnose their children and understand that a clinical assessment is required to screen for other causes of the behaviours including anxiety, depression, attention deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and communication disorders.

Research for ODD shows

Research has indicated that some causes of ODD are..

Causes of ODD are unclear but there are some familial patterns as it is more common in families where at least one parent has a history of depression, anxiety, ODD, conduct disorder, ADHD, personality disorders or a substance use disorder. It is more common in families where there are problems in the relationship between parents. Some studies suggest that an infant’s temperament e.g. infants who were difficult to soothe, or highly reactive.

Often parents one day just don’t understand where the behaviour of their child is coming from – this is because the onset of this behaviour can be gradual and often symptoms appear at home before spreading to the school and other settings.

Many parents attend psychological support when the behaviour begins to spread to other domains of their child’s life. However, more often than not the severity of the behaviour is so negative that the managing the symptoms and the response of the parents have become one vicious cycle whereby the defiance, arguing and anger of the child incites similar emotions in their caregivers robbing both parties of the tools they need to resolve the difficulties. Sometimes it remains unclear as to the reason for the onset of ODD and in treatment it is less useful to focus on finding the source of the problem rather than focusing on the solutions.

Treatment for ODD

Families are key to treatment success in ODD. Therapy can support parents struggling to manage a child with ODD by discussing the parent’s current approach to parenting and comparing with methods and strategies that have an evidence base for creating change in ODD. Depending on the strengths of each family system an approach can be co-created between therapist, parents and child to ensure the emotional needs of the child can be met within a framework of firm but kind limits and routines that promote predictability, safety and security.​

Oppositional Defiant Disorder can be experienced in early childhood with the biggest issues relating to disruptive behaviours. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) behaviour is normally characterized by a recurrent pattern of negativistic, hostile, defiant, disruptive, disobedient and hostile behaviour towards authority figures that are clearly outside the normal range of behaviour for a child of the same age in the same sociocultural context and which does not include the more serious violations of the rights of others associated with conduct disorder.

Persistence of behaviours:

The negative behaviour normally persists for at least 6 months.

Children and adolescents are often stubborn, do not comply with requests or directions, and in a variety of ways exhibit oppositional behaviour. However, when the negative behaviour appears to be beyond that of norm of what society/parents/peers and teachers would expect, and persist for many months at a time, most clinicians hear complaints that often describe

  • Preschool aged children to hit, kick, or bite other children
  • From early school years through middle school children may engage in various forms of aggression and bullying and authority non-compliance.
  • Adolescents can engage in dangerous, impulsive, non-compliant behaviours that not only endanger themselves but others.

Author: Michelle Barratt

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