It is normal for children to be oppositional and defiant at least some of the time. In fact, it’s a sign of healthy development. So when does a child have oppositional defiant disorder? The diagnosis should not be given, for example, to a toddler who has just discovered that her new favorite word is “no.”
ODD is typically diagnosed around early elementary school ages and stops being diagnosed around adolescence. Kids who have ODD have a well-established pattern of behavior problems. Symptoms include:
- Being unusually angry and irritable
- Frequently losing their temper
- Being easily annoyed
- Arguing with authority figures
- Refusing to follow rules
- Deliberately annoying people
- Blaming others for mistakes
- Being vindictive
All children can have these symptoms from time to time. What distinguishes ODD from normal oppositional behavior is how severe it is, and how long it has been going on for. A child with ODD will have had extreme behavior issues for at least six months.
Another hallmark of ODD is the toll it takes on family relationships. Regular daily frustrations — ignored commands, arguments, explosive outbursts — build up over time, and these negative interactions damage the parent-child bond and reinforce hostile patterns of behavior.