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Behavioral and Disruptive Disorders

Oppositional behavior, is part and parcel of adolescence, but it is not all the same as oppositional defiant disorder, in part because it is a much milder form of behavior, and in part because teenagers engaging in typically rebellious behavior are also prone to moments of spontaneous affection and warmth.

Oppositional defiant disorder, a pattern of persistently negative behavior with a hostile edge, is decidedly outside the range of normal adolescent development.

In this behavioral disturbance, a consistent pattern of disobedience and disrespect toward parents may be directed at other adult authority figures too, such as teachers. Exhibiting four or more of the features in the list below, for a minimum of six months, meets the criteria for making the diagnosis. Oppositional defiant disorder sometimes leads to more disruptive behavior, or conduct disorder.

Verbal and physical aggression toward people and animals are the hallmarks of conduct disorder. The diagnosis is established when a child has committed three or more of the acts connected with this disorder within the past year, and one in the past six months. Without treatment, most young people with this condition face a dim future. Studies of juveniles in prison found that approximately nine in ten had conduct disorder.

Know the Signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  • Consistent pattern of defiance, disobedience, belligerence, irritability
  • Frequently gets into arguments and fights
  • Easily loses temper
  • Blames others for his mistakes or misconduct
  • Often annoys others intentionally
  • Often behaves vindictively or spitefully toward others
  • Always seems angry, resentful
Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
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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