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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is characterized by a pattern of defiant, uncooperative or hostile behavior toward adults and authority figures without the type of antisocial aggressive acts that would qualify a child for conduct disorder. In order to be diagnosed with ODD, children must show a consistent pattern of negative, hostile defiant behavior that causes significant social or academic impairment in their life, and which occurs at a frequency greater than what would be expected for their age and developmental level. These problems must have persisted for at least 6 months, and be characterized by at least four of the diagnostic symptoms listed below:

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with adults
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with an adult’s requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Is often angry or resentful
  • Is often spiteful or vindictive (APA, 2000)


For a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, it’s also important that these symptoms can’t be explained by the presence of another mood or developmental disorder. (AACAP, 2007) It is also necessary to rule out conduct disorder, a more serious condition accentuated by antisocial behavior.

How professionals make a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder

In making a diagnosis, clinicians should base their judgment on at least 2 different evidence methods, such as diagnostic interviews and evidence gathered from other informants. In other words, they’ll interview your child and also ask for parent and/or teacher reports on a child’s behavior. There is no definitive test that can diagnose ODD, so clinicians are forced to rely on subjective information.

A mental health professional will base their diagnosis in part on…

  • How severe the behavior is
  • Whether this behavior is universal or occurs only in a certain setting with certain people
  • Whether a child has conflicts with peers, authority figures, or both (the latter suggests conduct disorder as opposed to ODD)
  • Whether the behavior is a reaction to stressful events or problems in the home, and whether it can be explained by another developmental disorder.


If your child has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder

If your child just received a diagnosis of ODD, don’t panic. Oppositional defiant disorder is a common childhood condition, and many kids will grow out of it, especially with the right help. It simply means that a child is exhibiting behavioral issues that are creating conflict with parents and/or teachers, which you probably already knew.

If your child was recently diagnosed with this disorder, our e-book Difficult Children will outline the steps you’ll need to fix emotional and behavioral problems in children. It’s just $7.99, and all proceeds from your purchase go to help kids in need.

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