Oppositional Defiant Disorder | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes ODD?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of ODD. It may result from a combination of factors. The child's general attitude and how the family reacts to his or her behavior may play a role in it. ODD may run in families. Other causes may be related to the nervous system or to brain chemicals that are out of balance.

Who is at risk for developing ODD?

A child is more likely to develop ODD if he or she has the following risk factors:

  • A history of abuse or neglect
  • A parent or caretaker who has a mood disorder, or who abuses alcohol or drugs
  • Exposure to violence
  • Inconsistent discipline
  • Lack of supervision
  • Instability in the family, such as divorce, multiple moves and changing schools frequently
  • Financial problems in the family
  • Parents who have or have had ODD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavioral problems


Oppositional Defiant Disorder by Sutton Hamilton, MD, and John Armando, LCSW (American Family Physician October 01, 2008, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20081001/861.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 10/09