Five Minute Guides to ODD

Happy Learners Banner

Five Minute Guides

What is ODD?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a behavioural syndrome characterised by negative relationships with others. Children with ODD tend to be disobedient, argumentative and short tempered. These behaviours are often more severe at home with parents and other family members. However, these characteristics can be directed at teachers and other authority figures.

bullet break

What are ODD behaviours?

A child with ODD will display at least four of the following behaviours for at least six months:

Is angry and resentful

Argues with adults

Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others

Loses temper

Deliberately annoys or irritates others

Blames others for their mistakes or misbehaviour

Refuses to comply with adult requests or rules

Spiteful and vindictive

bullet break

bullet break

Isn’t ODD just normal child behaviour?

Nearly all children will exhibit the above behaviours at some point. Notably, toddlers going through the 'terrible two's' and teenagers can be very challenging at times. However, children and young people with ODD will exhibit these much more frequently and severely than their peers.

bullet break

How common is ODD?

Studies vary between 2% and 16% and so it is difficult to be certain. However about 5% of pre-school children exhibit ODD and this tends to rise to about 12% in pre-adolescent children.

bullet break

Why do some children develop ODD?

No specific cause has been identified for ODD. However, it can often develop out of other conditions, particularly Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with ODD are also more likely to have an insecure attachment. Because of the high co-morbidity with ADHD many of the risk factors for developing ADHD apply to ODD. In addition the following factors are identified with an increased risk of developing ODD:

Irritability and intense reactions to negative situations in toddlerhood

Poor relationships with peers

Social and economic disadvantage

Poor reading of other's emotions particularly fear

Housing in areas prone to crime and violence

Inconsistent parenting

bullet break

bullet break

How do you support a child with ODD?

Children with ODD often have other conditions and managing these effectively will be paramount in helping them. In addition, parents benefit from attending parenting courses and/or being members of a parent support group. Strategies that can prove effective include:

Consistent approaches between parents

Firm and fair written down rules agreed with child

Consistent rewards and sanctions

Calming techniques to support anger management

De-escalation techniques such as distraction, partial compliance and time out

Consistent and fair application of rules in school and support with any other needs

bullet break

Who can diagnose ODD?

Diagnosis can be only made by a qualified medical professional.

bullet break

How is ODD diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually based on whether the qualifying behaviours for ODD are present in the difficulties described by parents. Reports from other agencies, such as schools may also be taken into account in determining diagnosis threshold.

bullet break

What are the benefits of diagnosis?

A diagnosis confirms the difficulties that parents and any education setting are experiencing with managing the child's behaviour. It can help parents recognise that new approaches to parenting are required in order to support their child. It can also help professionals, who work with the child, adapt their practice to be better able to meet the child's needs.

bullet break

Additional risks

A small proportion of children with ODD will go on to be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.

bullet break


Five Minute Guide to ODD

A handy printable version of this five minute guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

bullet break

Got more than five minutes?

You may be interested to read more:

Conduct Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Management

Back to the Five Minute Guides Index

bullet break