Children and adolescents frequently exhibit oppositional behaviors as they develop. Every parent is familiar with the toddler who is enchanted with the word “no” or the teen who pushes for a later curfew. Such responses are part of developing autonomy and independence.
Some children and adolescents, however, experience periods of turbulence that are significantly disruptive and that may affect functioning. These children and teens may have an aggressive/oppositional problem, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or conduct disorder (CD).
The assessment of oppositional and aggressive behaviors is complex and must take into account a child’s or adolescent’s social context and the degree to which patterns of undesirable behaviors are protective (e.g., aggressive behaviors in neighborhoods with a high incidence of violence may not indicate a disorder).1, 2 However, any symptoms of oppositional and aggressive behaviors significant enough to be disruptive or to interfere with functioning should be considered indicators for further intervention, even if the criteria for a formal diagnosis are not met.