Navigate Up

Pediatric Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Z

Print This Page

Oppositional defiant disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder is a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures.

Causes

This disorder is more common in boys than in girls. Some studies have shown that it affects 20% of school-age children. However, most experts believe this figure is high due to changing definitions of normal childhood behavior, and possible racial, cultural, and gender biases.

This behavior typically starts by age 8, but it may start as early as the preschool years. This disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Symptoms

  • Actively does not follow adults' requests
  • Angry and resentful of others
  • Argues with adults
  • Blames others for own mistakes
  • Has few or no friends or has lost friends
  • Is in constant trouble in school
  • Loses temper
  • Is spiteful or seeks revenge
  • Is touchy or easily annoyed

To fit this diagnosis, the pattern must last for at least 6 months and must be more than normal childhood misbehavior.

The pattern of behaviors must be different from those of other children around the same age and developmental level. The behavior must lead to significant problems in school or social activities.

Exams and Tests

Children with symptoms of this disorder should be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist. In children and adolescents, the following conditions can cause similar behavior problems and should be considered as possibilities:

Treatment

The best treatment for the child is to talk with a mental health professional in individual and possibly family therapy. The parents should also learn how to manage the child's behavior.

Medications may also be helpful, especially if the behaviors occur as part of another condition (such as depression, childhood psychosis , or ADHD).

Outlook (Prognosis)

Some children respond well to treatment, while others do not.

Possible Complications

In many cases, children with oppositional defiant disorder grow up to have conduct disorder as teenagers or adults. In some cases children may grow up to have antisocial personality disorder .

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have concerns about your child's development or behavior.

Prevention

Be consistent about rules and consequences at home. Don't make punishments too harsh or inconsistent.

Model the right behaviors for your child. Abuse and neglect increase the chances that this condition will occur.

References

Steiner H, Remsing L, Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007;46:126-141.

Updated: 2/24/2014

Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com