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Oppositional Defiance Disorder: The Effects on Boys and Girls

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Oppositional Defiance Disorder: The Effects on Boys and Girls.

Gabriella Victoria Campas

University of Arizona


Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is associated with elevated disruptive behavior traits and aggression. It is estimated that about one-third of the children with ODD also have ADHD and are diagnosed with anxiety or depression. However, it is unclear whether attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms are a cause for such unusual oppositional behaviors seen by young children. Children with ODD tend to blame others for their mistakes and difficulties. They’re different from normal children in ways they conduct disorders. Boys are more likely to be associated with and diagnosed with ODD around their preteen years, while girls tend to be seen acting out through words and not behavior. But recent research has discovered an equal diagnosis between males and females in their adolescence. The purpose of this paper is to distinguish the behaviors associated with ODD and ADHD and whether gender/age play a role in elevating those behaviors.


Oppositional Defiance Disorder: The Effects on Boys and Girls.

During childhood, it is normal to argue and disagree with our parents or defy authority from time to time, especially when that child is restless, hungry, or upset. Some of the behaviors Associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder can be related to things going on in the child’s life such as a transition, stress or in a crisis. Which makes it difficult for parents to distinguish from their stress-related behaviors. There is an overlap between ODD and ADHD but the two disorders are very different. The onset of ODD is usually elementary school age and there must be a pattern of negative, hostile, and defiant for period of 6 months. It does present itself more in boys than girls which causes problems, but both sexes handle the disorder differently. While boys tend to handle their emotions externally, girls hold their emotions internally. There are many factors that contribute to a child developing ODD.

There are few risk factors in the development of conduct such as child, family, peer, school and community that factor in problems with behavior.  A child’s socioeconomic state (SES) has been identified as a being another factor for behavioral problem. Specifically, children living in low socioeconomic status. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) was first diagnosed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition (DSM IV) and its where children, specifically adolescents exhibit behaviors by refusing to comply with authority figures (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Often times, they are defiant and hostile which causes conflict when it happens too frequently and is apparent around children of the same age and developmental stage. One to sixteen percent of adolescents have ODD, these children experience temper tantrums, talking back to adults, blaming others for their mistakes, and resenting others are just a few of the symptoms that can be problems at home or at school (“Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder”, 2011). ODD is typically not diagnosed alone; in most cases, it is an additional disorder to children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Because more children are diagnosed with ADHD, ODD becomes just a clinical part of the behavior traits associated with ADHD. But because ODD is not diagnosed alone until later, the disorder can easily turn into a Conduct Disorder (CD), which is severe. Unfortunately, because there is little research on ODD, there aren’t specific reasons what causes this disorder. But the research on ODD suggests that there are other factors that can contribute to ODD; like biological, psychological and social factors.

Boys continue to pop up in my research on ODD, because they demonstrate major symptoms especially when they are toddlers. As with most toddlers their defiance is very subtle and parents don’t realize that their child is actually hurting and they assume it will “phase out”. Boys in general aren’t good at internalizing their feelings and frustrations and they lash out and it doesn’t take much to set off a boy with ODD. It’s almost like having a personality disorder, for example in the classroom it could be calm and quiet but then within minutes the classroom environment is destroyed. Boys will vocally express their anger because they aren’t getting their way or a way to seek revenge. They take things really personally and lash in physical ways like kicking, hitting, throwing objects, cursing etc. It is their way of given back what they believe you’ve done to them. Girls, on the other hand, express aggressions in less subtle ways that leads to antisocial behavior to lower themselves. Unlike boys, girls tend to function a lot better in school and are less likely to get suspended. Their behavior is less physical, and more outward for example girls will whine or become unwilling to complete a task. Their behavior stems from anxiety, depression and self-harming. Girls can be more cooperative with authority figures than to lash out on people on purpose (Déry, Lapalme, Jagieollowicz, Poirier, Temcheff, Toupin, pg.55).

Much of the research on ODD describes behaviors that children express specifically in the preschool/elementary years. The importance of targeting ODD is early with intervention services in preschool, because children are generally more verbal with their emotions between the ages of 3 to 6 years old and are easily angered. In Smith, Lee, Martel and Axelrad’s study ODD Symptom Network during Preschool the observe over 109 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 6 years old and the effects ODD has with clustering with other symptoms. Their study had two outcomes both with anger as the “central symptom”, they indicated that anger/irritable and behavioral symptoms were present in their findings. Again, find that the comorbidity with ADHD may influence the outcomes of children with ODD (Smith, et all, pg 748-747).  This study although limited to just the current measures it can provide a small piece of information that can assist with parents and teachers finding ways to understand the symptoms associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The importance of recognizing the effects negative emotional patterns that can hinder children from self-regulating their behaviors.

Another study similar to the Symptom Network during Preschool, examines the predicators of depression and anxiety symptoms in elementary school-age boys and girls whom have behavioral products. It doesn’t many people that children especially in elementary like to disobey any authority figure that isn’t their parents. The researchers wanted to find the relationship between the “DSM-5 categories” of oppositional defiant disorder and anxiety/depression in boys and girls. This study focused on the conduct problems related to ODD how it differs between boys and girls and the development of anxiety or depression. This was another interesting aspect of ODD that I hadn’t thought could be associated with the disability. Although I think there maybe be some depression and anxiety with any disability a person has. For children, it is always harder for them to express how they are feeling sometimes and it makes it even more difficult when they have a disability that may seem like bad behavior or acting out. The study concluded with that children with ODD are at an increased risk for developing anxiety and depression later in their lives. The researchers also discovered that irritable moods for both girls and boy contributed to higher levels of depression and anxiety after 2 years of this study. But the depression level in boys decreased after and additional 2 years, but unfortunately not for girls. (Déry, et all). As children enter the middle school stage of their lives, children beginning to understand who they are or are trying to figure out where they fit in. In another study by Demmer, Hooley, Sheen, McGillivray and Lum, they seek to find Sex Differences in the Prevalence of Oppositional Defiant Disorder During Middle Childhood: a Meta-Analysis. Females tend to be more vicious when comes to ODD, their actions tend to be unseen and more hurtful. Whereas males are more vocal and lash our more aggressively when someone of authority. The study concluded with the result that there was an “overall male dominance in ODD prevalence” and that there should be more attention in place to investigating the sex differences of ODD (Demmer, et all, pg. 323).



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