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Publication #FCS 2135

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)1

Garret D. Evans, Psy.D.2

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis given to children who display a pattern of negative and defiant behavior to parents, teachers and others who have authority over them.

Many children disobey their parents or teachers from time to time. In fact, oppositional behavior is very common in pre-school children and teenagers. It's important that we don't mislabel these normal "phases" of childhood as signs of a behavioral disorder.Children with ODD have frequent run-ins with authority figures and are oppositional far more often than other children their age.

Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ODD than girls, especially before puberty. Children typically begin to show signs of ODD before age 8 and no later than 13-15. While mental health professionals are very cautious with diagnosing ODD before the school-aged years, many children with ODD had "difficult" temperaments as toddlers. They were often fussy, argumentative, and likely to throw temper tantrums even as very young children.

The following is a list of signs that may suggest that a child has ODD (APA, 1994). Be careful; as mentioned earlier, many children are oppositional from time to time. Children with ODD really stand out from other kids due to their poor behavior. Also, this pattern of behavior must have been going on for at least 6 months before the diagnosis of ODD can be considered.

Signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  1. Temper-tantrums, even over small disagreements, very upset when they don't get their own way.

  2. Argues with adults, especially with those in authority.

  3. Defies or deliberately refuses to follow rules or directions given by adults.

  4. Deliberately annoys people, continues a behavior after being asked to stop several times (e.g., touching things, saying something, making sounds, etc.).

  5. Blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior.

  6. Seems touchy or easily annoyed by others.

  7. Seems angry and resentful much of the time, walks around with a "sour-puss" much of the time.

  8. Often wants to "even the score" with others, is spiteful toward others.

These children often need special attention while growing up to overcome their behavior problems. Unfortunately, the "special attention" they receive often comes in the form of almost non-stop punishment, teasing by siblings and peers, and being singled-out as the "problem child" at home and school.

Like other children with behavior problems, they often have low self-esteem and don't get along with brothers, sisters and kids their own age. They also may have school problems related to their poor classroom behavior and problems with classmates.

If the condition is not successfully treated in childhood and the early teens, the child is likely to have greater problems in their teenage and early adult years. For example, children with ODD are vulnerable to having problems with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and early sexual activity. As teenagers, their parents often complain that they are "running around with the wrong crowd" and that they can't seem to control them anymore.

While this report gives specific information for identifying signs and symptoms of ODD in children, parents and others should not try to diagnose any type of behavioral or emotional disorder in their children or themselves. A diagnosis of ODD can only be made with confidence by a mental health professional who has been specifically trained in the assessment and treatment of this disorder.


American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (text revision). Washington, DC: Author.



This document is FCS 2135, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date July 1999. Reviewed April 2012, by Heidi Radunovich, Assistant Professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Visit the EDIS website at


Garret D. Evans, Psy.D., associate professor, Clinical Psychology, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.