Is your child defiant, disobedient and abusive?

These and other symptoms may be the result of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and may result in more serious disorders as they age. Photo: Child / Associated Press

WASHINGTON- April, 26 2013- “But children, you should never let such angry passions rise. Your little hands were never made to tear each other’s eyes”- Isaac Walts, theologian, writer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most children reach a stage of oppositional behavior by displaying strong will and emotionality. Others are downright defiant, disobedient and display abnormal reactive behaviors that are so severe, parents suspect something is wrong and in many cases, parents are correct.


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In some children, this is known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which generally reveals at around age eight and can be differentiated from normal youthful moodiness.

Behaviors generally associated with ODD include negativity, defiance, disobedience and hostility toward authority figures. If a child has temper tantrums, refuses to comply with adult requests or established rules, deliberately annoys others and acts easily annoyed, these behaviors should raise a red flag.

Additional suspicious behaviors are trouble in school, poor grades, acts spiteful and vindictive, acts aggressively toward peers, assigns blame to others and seems to feel a lack of self-esteem.

ODD may be the causation of such outward displays of anger fueled defiance. Children with ODD do not see their behaviors as unusual but feels unreasonable demands are being placed on them.


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ODD often occurs with other behavioral issues such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder  (ADHD), anxiety and depression. To obtain a diagnosis of ODD, one must meet the criteria of four of the symptoms.

The importance of treatment is not just to affect the behavior of a child at the time of the appearance of symptoms but to begin therapy and a regime psychotropic medicine with an eye toward potential future personality disorders that may stem from ODD or grow into more serious behavioral problems. While the cause of ODD is unknown, many cases segue into Conduct Disorder with anti-social behaviors and worse- Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD).

ASPD is a most serious disorder characterized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV) as “an impoverished moral sense or conscience” and characterized by three of the following:

-Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.

-Rationalizes poor behavior and blames others.

-Intolerant of frustration, marked aggression and violence.

-lacks social norms, disregards rules, obligations and is irresponsible

-Inability to feel guilt or learn from experience and punishment.

-Easily establishes but cannot maintain relationships.

ASPD is an umbrella term for psychopathic and sociopathic behaviors.

Obviously, if a child exhibits patterns and characterizations for ODD, it is essential to seek treatment from a mental health professional as soon as possible. A discussion with a primary care physician may start parents and child up the road to treatment to help the child when symptoms arise and for the future of the child’s life. While not every child ultimately displays ASPD in adulthood, the risk is prevalent and the results heartbreaking for anyone who crosses the paths of those afflicted.

Review the signs listed here and allow time for a child to display poor behaviors in a consistent fashion before feeling alarmed. If a child meets the criteria, look into the possibility of ODD as quickly as possible to address concerns and possibly prevent a future poor prognosis.

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Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.


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