All children are oppositional from time to time. They may argue, talk back, disobey and defy parents, teachers and other adults. This is a natural part of growing up. Children tend to be particularly oppositional when they are hungry, tired, stressed or upset. There are also times in a child's development when oppositional behaviour is more common: between the age of 2-3 years old and teenagers. These are developmental stages when it is important that children can try their own will and they need to learn how to handle new and conflicting emotions.
What we can do for our children, when they go through these developmental stages, is to be good role models. We need to show our kids that there are ways to control your impulses. Show your child you understand his/her problem. Try to engage him/her into problem-solving, where you can express what you want and then try to find solutions which you both can accept. In time your child will grow up to be compassionate person in charge of his/her own emotions.
Because oppositional behaviour is very common in pre-school children and teenagers one should be very cautious about making the diagnosis of ODD during these periods.
However, a child's uncooperativeness and hostile behaviour becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and so consistent that it stands out when compared to other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child's social, family, and academic life.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders (DSM-IV) Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ODD, is described as a pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behaviour toward authority figures that persists for at least six months and is characterized by the frequent occurrence of at least four of the following:
- losing temper
- arguing with adults,
- actively defying or refusing to comply with the requests or rules of adults
- deliberately doing things that will annoy other people
- blaming others for his or her own mistakes or misbehaviour
- being touchy or easily annoyed by others
- being angry and resentful
- being spiteful or vindictive.
Identifying The Signs
It's not always easy to distinguish oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) from normal, age appropriate Oppositional behaviour. Symptoms of the disorder tend to mirror, in exaggerated form, problems common to most families with teenagers. In addition, different families have various levels of tolerance for negative behaviour. In some, a minor infraction of the rules produces major consequences, while in more tolerant homes, oppositional behaviours are largely ignored unless they cause practical difficulties.
In teenagers with ODD, there is a pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behaviour toward authority figures that seriously interferes with their day‑to‑day functioning. They regularly lose their tempers, argue with adults, actively defy adult rules, refuse adult requests, and deliberately annoy others.
Blaming others for their mistakes, these may appear touchy, angry, resentful, spiteful, or vindictive, even to their peers. Although aggressive behaviour tends to be limited, some youngsters engage in mild physical aggression, and their language tends to be more aggressive and obscene than the average teenager’s. Though particular stresses, of adolescence may significantly increase oppositional behaviour, the symptoms represent a behavioural style that has been present for many years.
Teenagers with ODD were, in many, instances, fussy, colicky, difficult to‑soothe infants. During the toddler and preschool years, when a certain degree of oppositional attitude is considered normal, ordinary points of contention in the family became battlegrounds for intractable power struggles. These oppositional episodes were typically cantered around eating, toilet training, sleeping, and speaking. Temper tantrum, were usually extreme.
In childhood and then in adolescence youngsters with ODD consistently dawdle and procrastinate. These teens may agree to perform tasks but later claim ignorance of the responsibilities, much to their parent, chagrin and frustration. They may say that they do not hear and, as a result, are often, referred for hearing evaluations, only to be found to have normal hearing. The issue is so listening rather than hearing by adolescence, parents and their oppositional teen usually have established patterns of interaction that contribute to stress and problems at home.
During these years, struggles with teens commonly centre on keeping their rooms neat, picking up after themselves, taking baths or grooming appropriately, using obscene language, complying with curfew, doing homework, and attending school. In all instances, winning becomes the most important aspect of the struggle for the teen. At times a teenager with ODD will forfeit cherished privileges rather than lose the argument.
In milder forms of ODD, open conflicts are limited to the home environment, while at school, the adolescent may be quietly resistant and uncooperative. More severe forms involve overt defiance toward other authority figures such as teachers, coaches, and other adults in the community. Teenagers with ODD may get into trouble with police - most often for a disrespectful, provocative, or belligerent attitude.
Teenagers with ODD typically have little insight and ability to admit to their difficulties. Rather, they tend to blame their troubles on others and on external circumstances. They are always questioning the rules and challenging those perceived to be unreasonable.
Before puberty, the rate of ODD is higher in boys than in girls. In adolescence, the incidence of the disorder is roughly the same.
Causes And Consequences
It appears that oppositional defiant disorder arises out of a circular family dynamic, A baby who is by nature more difficult, fussy, and colicky may be harder to soothe. These parents often feel frustrated and as though they are failures. Parents who perceive their child as unresponsive or "bad" may come to anticipate that the child will be unresponsive or noncompliant. They may then become unresponsive or unreliable in return, adding to the baby's feelings of helplessness, neediness, and frustration.
As parents attempt to assert control by insisting on compliance in such areas as eating, toilet training, sleeping, or speaking politely, the young child may demonstrate resistance by withholding, withdrawing, or refusing to cooperate.
As a child matures, increasing negativism, defiance, and non-compliance become misguided ways of dealing with normal separation issues. In this way, the disorder may represent unresolved separation anxiety, a tenacious drawing out of the "terrible twos."
The more a child reacts in defiant, provocative ways, the more negative feed back she elicits from the parents. In an attempt to achieve compliance, the parents or authority figures remind, lecture, berate, physically punish, and nag the child, But far from diminishing oppositional behaviour, these kinds of responses toward the child tend to increase the rate and intensity of non-compliance. Ultimately, it becomes a tug‑of-war and a battle of wills.
When such patterns typify parent‑child relationships, discipline is often inconsistent. At times, parents may explode in anger with efforts to control and discipline. At other times, they may withhold appropriate punishments and consequences so that these soon become hollow threats. As the child continues to provoke and defy, parents lose control. Then, feeling regret and guilt, especially if they've become verbally or physically explosive, the parents may become excessively rewarding in order to undo what they now perceive to have been, excessive discipline or harsh consequences.
When a child starts school, this pattern of passive‑aggressive, oppositional behaviour tends to provoke teachers and other children as well. At school the child is met with anger, punitive reactions, and criticism. The child then argues back, blames others, and gets angry.
By the time a youngster with ODD reaches adolescence, she may have had years of difficulty at school, Her behaviour and attitude regularly cause disruption in the classroom and interfere with social and academic functioning. When her behaviour and defiance affect her schoolwork and behaviour, she will have experienced school failure and social isolation. This, coupled with chronic criticism, can lead to low self‑esteem. Usually, ODD youngsters feel unfairly picked on. In fact, they may believe that their behaviour is reasonable.
In many cases, oppositional disorders coexist with ADHD. Symptoms of ODD may also occur as part of a major depressive disorder, obsessive‑compulsive disorder, or an attack of mania. In some teenagers, ODD may represent a remnant of separation anxiety disorder, in which oppositional defiance reflects a reaction to feelings of ambivalence and anxiety that arise from the developmental move toward independence. There also seems to be a correlation between ODD in a teen and a history of disruptive behaviour disorders, substance abuse, or other emotional disorders in family members.
Defiant Teens: A Clinician's Manual for Assessment and Family Intervention
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