Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Information compiled from: As published by the American Psychiatric Association. (1994) DSM-IV. Additional Resources listed below.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is more prevalent in boys than girls and is found in 16 to 22 percent of the school-age population. The onset typically begins by age 8. The cause of ODD is unknown, but struggles of power and control might lead to the eruption of oppositional defiant behavior.


ODD is defined by a pattern of negative, hostile and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:

  • Loss of temper
  • Arguing with adults
  • Actively defies adults’ requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Blames others for their own mistakes or
  • Is touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Angry and resentful of others
  • Is often spiteful or vindictive

NOTE: Consider a criterion met only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level. The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning.


The best treatment for a child diagnosed with ODD is behavior therapy, implemented through parent training. The parent training is often more effective as family therapy, conducted with the parents and the child. In these courses, parents learn behavior techniques, which help increase the likelihood of maintaining control in the relationship with the child. Gradual shaping of the child’s behavior toward more age-appropriate behaviors is accomplished through the implementation of a behavior-monitoring reward program.

Very little research has been conducted in the use of medications for ODD. Therefore, medication is not recommended as a treatment option.


Running on Ritalin, Lawrence H. Diller, M.D.
The Explosive Child, Ross Greene

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