Oppositional Defiant Disorder (odd) In Children: Causes And Symptoms

What are the behaviors that alert us that our child suffers from TOD?

T rastorno Oppositional Defiant (ODD) is a dysfunctional pattern of disobedient, defiant and hostile behavior toward authority figures that some children present.

Sometimes expressions such as “child emperors” or ” child emperor syndrome ” are also used to refer to this type of behavior in childhood.

Causes of oppositional defiant disorder

It is a disorder whose incidence is higher in boys than in girls. Several investigations have revealed that oppositional defiant disorder affects 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 10. However, educational psychologists and pedagogues agree that this figure could be somewhat exaggerated due to different biases when evaluating this type of behavior and comparing it with child behavior that is considered normal.

Oppositional defiant disorder usually has its onset around 8 years of age, but depending on the case, it can even debut at the age of 4-5 years. It is often noted that it is a dysfunctional behavior that is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.


  • The child does not obey the orders of adults
  • Anger and resentment towards other people
  • Tendency to argue with adults
  • Blames others for their own mistakes and failures
  • Bad relationship with his peers: he has few or no friends because they are separated from him
  • Gets in trouble at school
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Little patience
  • He usually takes revenge if he considers that he has received a wrong
  • It is highly susceptible

To find out if a child has oppositional defiant disorder, they will  need to repeat their behavior pattern for at least 6 months, fit within at least half of the symptoms described above, and clearly transgress the limits of habitual childhood misbehavior .

The set of behaviors must be significantly differentiated from other children of similar ages and the same level of cognitive development. The behavior should have an impact on notable problems in the school environment or in their interpersonal relationships.

Detection and diagnosis

Children who have symptoms that fit the ODD should be assessed by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Whether we are talking about children or adolescents, there are certain psychopathologies that can carry symptoms and behaviors very similar to those of oppositional defiant disorder, and that therefore must be taken into consideration:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cyclothymia
  • Depression
  • Learning-related disorders
  • Drug addiction (obviously much more common in adolescents than in children)

Therapy and treatment

The person who can best evaluate and chart an effective treatment for these types of cases is a qualified mental health professional, an expert in individual therapy and in developmental disorders and families. For their part, parents must also learn a series of guidelines and tips to manage and improve their child’s behavior.

There are also some drugs that can be administered in cases in which DOT is a consequence of another underlying psychopathology, such as depression or childhood psychosis. In any case, pharmacological treatment should always be the last option, since psychological and family therapy report good levels of effectiveness to correct this disorder.

Expectations and possible complications

Psychological therapy can have a good effect in most cases, but there are cases of especially problematic children whose behavioral pattern is more consolidated. Children with oppositional defiant disorder can grow into adolescence and adulthood with conduct disorder.

In some cases, the child with ODD may develop antisocial personality disorder as an adult.

In order to treat the disorder as soon as possible so that the prognosis is favorable, consult with your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist if you have questions about whether your child may be adopting patterns of behavior typical of TOD.

Prevent oppositional defiant disorder

As parents, we must be consistent in setting rules and limits for our children in the home environment. In addition, equivalent punishments must be applied to the child’s mischief; We must never be too harsh or contradictory with rewards or punishments.

Children learn primarily by imitation. This means that parents, as primary references for children, serve as a mirror for the development of certain behavioral patterns. Therefore, we must be careful. And of course, you have to avoid emotional abuse or rejection because it could be a trigger for the appearance of this disorder. 

  • It is also important to encourage the child to have good self-esteem to prevent this type of maladaptive behavior from arising. To this end, we recommend that you read the following article:  “10 strategies to improve your child’s self-esteem”

Some articles that can help you educate your child correctly

If you have five more minutes of reading, we advise you to take a look at these posts that will give you some keys to prevent ODD and make your child learn adaptive behavior patterns.

  • “The 8 basic tips to avoid spoiling your child”
  • “Dealing with difficult children: 7 practical tips”
  • “Tips for nurturing your children with emotional intelligence”

Bibliographic references:

  • Aitchison, J. (1992). The articulated mammal. Introduction to Psycholinguistics. Madrid: Editorial Alliance. 
  • Well, M .; Mirror, B .; Rodríguez, F. and Toro, S. (2000). Boys and girls with blindness. 
  • Pérez Pereira, M. (1995). New perspectives in developmental psychology. A critical historical approach. Madrid: Editorial Alliance. 
  • Pinker, S. (2001). The instinct of language. Madrid: Editorial Alliance. 
  • Villuendas, Mª.D. and Gordo López, A. (coords.) (2003). Gender relations in psychology and education. Madrid: Ministry of Education. Madrid’s community.

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