Contributing Factors on How Does a Child Get Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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What is oppositional defiant disorder? How does a child get oppositional defiant disorder? These are common questions of parents whose child has been diagnosed with this disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is defined as a recurrent pattern of hostile, defiant, and negative behavior towards authority figures, like parents, teachers, guardians and other adults, lasting for more than six months. Manifestations of ODD include consistent arguing with adults, easily losing one’s temper, defying requests of authorities, refusing to follow rules, deliberately annoying authorities, or being vindictive, annoyed and resentful. A child with ODD also easily gets angry, and may tend to blame other people for his wrongdoings.

How a Child Gets It

Although the exact cause of ODD is not yet clear, many experts believe that heredity and the environment may contribute to its occurrence. It is said that there is an increased risk of ODD in children with one or both parents having substance abuse or other mood disorders. Environmental factors that predispose children to ODD include exposure to toxins and alcohol prior to their birth as well as poor nutrition.

Show of irritability and intense reaction to negative stimuli as a toddler can also lead to the development of ODD pattern as the child grows up. Other contributing factors include family issues like divorce, financial problems, harsh punishment, parental mental disorders, and inconsistent parenting.

A cycle of negative behavior often exists in families with a child having a difficult temperament and a parent with short temper. In such pattern, the defiant behavior of the child results in the parent punishing the child or treating the child more harshly and inconsistently, such as giving threats of punishment and sometimes not. When threatened with harsh punishment, the child may learn how to deal with the threats by showing more resentment, and when no punishment is given, he thinks that he doesn’t have to always comply.

This cycle, which explains how does a child get oppositional defiant disorder, frequently starts during preschool, and without intervention, can progress and worsen. As the child grows up, he may deal with various situations differently. A young child may openly show defiance and resentment, but an older one may resort to other means, like stealing or violence, for example.

Other factors that increases the risk of ODD include neglect or abuse, not enough supervision, violence exposure, frequent changing of schools or home, and absence of positive involvement from parents.


ODD is more prevalent in boys especially before puberty. It usually becomes apparent when the child reaches 8 years old. Diagnosis is often made complicated by the relatively high incidence of disruptive behavioral disorders among children. There are also symptoms of ADHD that may overlap with ODD. It has likewise been reported that there is a co-existing ADHD in at least 50% of children affected with ODD.


eMedicine: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Mayo Clinic: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)