Causes and Effects of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Youth Care Treatment Center and school has helped teens with ODD all over the United States for 30 years. Our unique approach is based off of solid morals and beliefs to help adolescents be successful in turning their lives around.

Understanding ODD

Learn about ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is characterized by hostile, defiant, and disobedient behaviors. This mental health condition often occurs during childhood, and is most obvious when a child interacts with an authority figure such as a teacher, parent, or other individual who is in a position of power. Those with ODD will continuously disobey and defy direction even if they are faced with significant consequences. Since a disregard such as this is present, there are many long-term effects that can develop if the child does not receive appropriate treatment.

In addition to the many behavioral symptoms a child with ODD might exhibit, there are many mood-related symptoms that develop in someone with this disorder. Agitated and angry outbursts are common, which can add to acting out when triggered. Luckily, there are options for care available that can help reduce these symptoms, put an end to destructive behaviors, and help children understand how important controlling impulses is. The most imperative thing to know is that symptoms of ODD do not have to continue, as it is possible to defeat the obstacles linked to this disorder.


ODD statistics

Experts show that more than 10% of children meet the criteria needed to be diagnosed with ODD. Boys are more likely to develop this disorder than are girls, with 11% of pre-pubescent boys having ODD in comparison to 9% of pre-pubescent girls. In addition, boys and girls will present with different symptoms and will do so with varying levels of severity. However, even though there are differences in the prevalence of symptoms among boys and girls, research has shown that nearly 70% of children with ODD will not struggle with these symptoms by the time they enter into late adolescence.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ODD

Researchers agree that there are many causes and risk factors that add to the development of ODD. Some of the most common explanations are:

Genetic: Having a family history of mental health disorders like depressive disorders, personality disorders, and bipolar disorder are said to add to one’s likelihood of developing symptoms of ODD. Researchers, as a result, believe that genes play a role in the development of ODD.

Environmental: Experts feel strongly that environmental factors play a major role in the development of this disorder. Since the onset of ODD happens during childhood, the environment in which a child is brought up in can influence his or her likelihood of developing ODD. Living in a chaotic or stressful home, being exposed to neglect, abuse, or trauma, and witnessing violence and aggressive behaviors by caregivers can cause the development of ODD to occur.

Risk Factors:

  • Inconsistent parenting
  • Exposure to substance use or abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Witnessing violent or aggressive behaviors
  • Exposure to trauma / abuse/ neglect
  • Being raised in a chaotic / stressful home

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ODD

Signs and symptoms connected to ODD can vary based on one’s age and gender. When looking into treatment for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, it is crucial to note the presence of any of the symptoms listed below:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Belligerent behaviors
  • Being uncooperative
  • Blaming others
  • Constant disobedience
  • Seeking revenge
  • Behaving spitefully
  • Instigating behaviors
  • Temper tantrums
  • Intentionally destroying relationships
  • Refusing to adhere to rules
  • Arguing
  • Aggressive behaviors or fighting

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to think before acting or speaking
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Poor concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Problems making new or maintaining friends
  • Persistent negativity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of being constantly annoyed


Effects of ODD

Untreated ODD can cause a number of effects to develop. Treatment and continued support are critical in avoiding the consequences listed below:

  • Expulsion from school
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to formulate meaningful relationships
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Increased conflict within interpersonal relationships
  • Development of other mental health or substance use concerns

Co-Occurring Disorders

ODD and co-occurring disorders

There are many mental health conditions that can develop alongside of ODD, including:

  • Language disorders
  • Intellectual development disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
Marks of Quality Care
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Cognia
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval

Now I can sleep at night. My son is safe and finally moving forward after three other residential facilities and weekly therapies of all kinds - for years - in three different countries.

– Linda C.