Disruptive, aggressive and oppositional behaviour in children often leads to distress in the family unit. When children begin “acting up” parents often resort to punitive strategies which end up making the behaviour worse. Although ODD can begin as early as 3 years of age, it is typically noted by 8 years of age and usually not later than adolescence. Defiant behaviour can sometimes make parents feel burnt out and helpless.
An example of normal oppositional behaviour peaks between 18 and 24 months, the “terrible twos,” when toddlers behave negativistically as an expression of growing autonomy.
What are symptoms of ODD
The symptoms of ODD include a persistent angry/irritable mood, vindictiveness and argumentative behavior for a period of atleast 6 months.
- Negativistic, disobedient, and hostile behaviour toward authority figure (Parent/teachers/caregivers).
- An inability to take responsibility and a propensity to blame others.
- Frequent arguments/anger/irritability.
- Active refusal to follow rules in one or more situations.
- Children with ODD do not indulge in marked aggression, behaviour that can cause physical harm to others or destruction of public property.
What causes ODD?
Punitive/abusive parenting met by a child who has a strong temperament could sow the seeds to emotional distress in childhood. Environmental trauma, parental mental illness, parental conflict, parental substance and to some extent genetics/temperamental factors play a role in causing ODD. Sometimes, oppositional behaviour is reinforced by well-meaning parents.
“If a always child gets more attention or what he wants only by throwing tantrums, such behavior becomes reinforced to shape his or her temperament”
How is ODD treated ?
Before a diagnosis of ODD, emotional disturbances arising from depression, anxiety and trauma need to rule out. ADHD can present as defiance. The goal of treatment is often to reduce parent-child conflict and improve positive parent-child interactions. Behavioural therapy and reinforcement techniques can help reduce the conflict to a large extent.
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