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Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) have difficulties with: angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behaviour (annoys or blames others and argues or defies authority figures), and/or vindictiveness (acting in a way intended to be mean or hurtful to others). Many children may exhibit these behaviours at some point in their lives. However, children with ODD frequently and persistently display these challenging behaviours, which greatly impacts their daily lives.

Approximately 1 to 11 % of children have ODD. ODD is slightly more common in boys before adolescence. ODD is a behavioural disorder; this means that young people with ODD are unable to regulate their emotions and manage their behaviours. Most research to date has not found a biological cause for ODD. Research has identified a number of risk factors in the development of ODD, including: social concerns, educational concerns, parenting practices (inconsistent, harsh or neglectful practices), family factors (having experienced a succession of different caregivers or not having bonded with their caregiver), school factors (schools with harsh punishments or unclear rules, expectations or consequences) and community factors (communities with high amounts of violence and negative peer influences).

Untreated ODD will be persistent and can lead to conduct disorder in adolescence. However, with appropriate intervention, children with ODD and their families can gain skills that allow them to manage the ODD and live healthy and productive lives.

Characteristics of children with oppositional defiant disorder

Your child may have ODD if s/he has often exhibited four or more of the following symptoms for at least six months:

  • Is angry or resentful
  • Is easily annoyed or considered ‘touchy’
  • Loses his/her temper
  • Argues with authority figures (e.g., adults, for children)
  • Defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures
  • Deliberately annoys others
  • Blames others for his/her mistakes/behaviours
  • Acts in a spiteful or vindictive way

For a child to be diagnosed with ODD, s/he has to exhibit very challenging behaviours that have persistently occurred for six months or longer, are happening in at least one setting (e.g., home, school, childcare, etc.) and are interfering with their social or academic activities.

Concerns for children with oppositional defiant disorder

Children with ODD have different learning needs from those of their peers. In order to meet their needs, they must be identified as having ODD and provided with appropriate behavioural intervention. If the ODD is present at school, schools should use individualised learning plans (ILPs) to ensure that the specific learning needs of children with ODD are met and to provide provisions to help children with ODD to succeed in the classroom (e.g., using positive reinforcement and a rewards system).

Children with ODD whose needs are not being met can experience a range of school-based concerns, including: social isolation (feeling different from their peers, being teased and being excluded by their peers), disengaging with school (refusing to engage in learning activities and avoiding attending school) and reduced school performance (exhibiting a gap between their intellectual potential and their academic output).

Children may experience the following emotional concerns in relation to their ODD that require help from a psychologist: anger, stress/anxiety, depression and increased risk of suicide.

Children with ODD are also more likely than children without ODD to have additional behavioural concerns, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder.

In addition to the emotional concerns already listed, older adolescents and adults with untreated ODD are at greater risk of substance abuse disorders and antisocial personality disorder.


Early identification and intervention have been shown to provide the best outcomes for children with oppositional defiant disorder. If you believe that your child may have oppositional defiant disorder, please visit our assessment page to learn more about the assessments we offer or contact us to schedule an appointment for an assessment.


If your child has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, our evidence-based, behavioural intervention program can help your child. The purpose of our behavioural intervention program is to shift children’s behaviour while ensuring that their underlying needs are met. We use behavioural intervention therapy to teach you skills that enable you to recognise your children’s behaviours, understand the reasons for their behaviours and provide you with strategies to meet their underlying needs in alternative ways. This intervention may also include:

  • Parenting skills training
  • Emotional regulation skills training
  • Problem solving skills training
  • Social skills training

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our appointments page. If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s ODD, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

We offer personalised, evidence-based treatments that can help your child if s/he is experiencing anger, stress/anxiety, depression or risk of suicide as a result of their experiences with ODD. Please visit our treatment page for further information or contact us to schedule an appointment.

We can help your child if s/he has ODD and is experiencing negative outcomes at school by providing your school with practical recommendations or by visiting your child’s school and meeting their school professionals.

Please contact us if you would like to schedule an appointment for an assessment of behavioural, educational, emotional, and/or social concerns for your child.

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