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What causes oppositional defiant disorder?

The exact underlying cause of ODD is unknown. However, there are several factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. When environmental and inherited factors cause behavioral problems severe enough to interfere with normal functioning, a child is diagnosed with ODD. These factors may include abuse/neglect, inconsistent discipline, developmental delays, chemical imbalance in the brain, and a lack of adult supervision. ODD may also be related to a child's inherent disposition.

While the cause of ODD is not known, there are two primary theories offered to explain the development of ODD. A developmental theory suggests that the problems begin when children are toddlers. Children and adolescents who develop ODD may have had a difficult time learning to separate from their primary attachment figure and developing autonomous skills. The bad attitudes characteristic of ODD are viewed as a continuation of the normal developmental issues that were not adequately resolved during the toddler years.
Learning theory suggests, however, that the negativistic characteristics of ODD are learned attitudes reflecting the effects of negative reinforcement techniques used by parents and authority figures. The use of negative reinforcers by parents is viewed as increasing the rate and intensity of oppositional behaviors in the child as it achieves the desired attention, time, concern, and interaction with parents or authority figures.

Continue Learning about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.