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Behavior Disorders & Conduct Problems

Information for Parents and Caregivers 

Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Disruptive behavior disorders are among the easiest to identify of all coexisting conditions because they involve behaviors that are readily seen such as temper tantrums, physical aggression such as attacking other children, excessive argumentativeness, stealing, and other forms of defiance or resistance to authority. These disorders, which include ODD and CD, often first attract notice when they interfere with school performance or family and peer relationships, and frequently intensify over time. A behavior disorder may be diagnosed when these disruptive behaviors are uncommon for the child’s age at the time, persist over time, or are severe. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children and adolescents with this disorder have great difficulty following rules, respecting the rights of others, showing empathy, and behaving in a socially acceptable way. They are often viewed by other children, adults and social agencies as "bad" or delinquent, rather than mentally ill. Many factors may lead to a child developing conduct disorder, including brain damage, child abuse or neglect, genetic vulnerability, school failure, and traumatic life experiences. Common examples of trauma are shown below. 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Many children with ADHD display oppositional behaviors at times. Oppositional defiant disorder is defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) as including persistent symptoms of “negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behaviors toward authority figures.” A child with ODD may argue frequently with adults; lose his temper easily; refuse to follow rules; blame others for his own mistakes; deliberately annoy others; and otherwise behave in angry, resentful, and vindictive ways. He is likely to encounter frequent social conflicts and disciplinary situations at school. In many cases, particularly without early diagnosis and treatment, these symptoms worsen over time—sometimes becoming severe enough to eventually lead to a diagnosis of conduct disorder.

Acoording to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, symptoms of ODD may include:


Frequent temper tantrums

Excessive arguing with adults

Often questioning rules

Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules

Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people

Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior

Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others

Frequent anger and resentment

Mean and hateful talking when upset

Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

The symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings but may be more noticeable at home or at school. One to sixteen percent of all school-age children and adolescents have ODD. The causes of ODD are unknown, but many parents report that their child with ODD was more rigid and demanding than the child's siblings from an early age. Biological, psychological, and social factors may have a role.


These scientifically supported sites are among psychology’s best for helping parents raise their kids.

Choose each topic of interest to view resource: 

Medline Plus - US National Library of Medicine 


Child Mind Institute ( Behavior Problems :  


    Newborns/Behavior  (0-3 Months of Age)

    Babies Behavior  (3-12 Months of Age)

    Toddler Behaviors  (1-3 Years of Age) 

    Pre-Schoolers Behaviors  (3-5 Years of Age)

    School-age Behaviors  (5-8 Years of Age)  (evidence-based mental health treatment for children & adolescents) 

 What are Bipolar Spectrum Disorders?      Effective Therapies for Bipolar Disorder and Severe Mood Swings

 What is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder?   What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Spectrum Disorders?

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry   (Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder)                  

    Children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) have severe and frequent temper tantrums        that interfere with their ability to function at home, in school, or with their friends. Some of these children          were previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, even though they often did not have all the signs and              symptoms. Research has also demonstrated that children with DMDD usually do not go on to have bipolar        disorder in adulthood. They are more likely to develop problems with depression or anxiety.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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