What is the Difference between Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder?

Illustration of two kids one with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and the other with Conduct Disorder


It is normal for kids to act up and test their limits from time to time. They sometimes have angry outbursts and are aggressive to solve their problems. These things are normal and are part of growing up. They are part of the learning process for children.

Most kids learn that throwing tantrums, refusing to listen to a parent, and hitting and hurting people have consequences. There are some kids that act aggressively, defiantly, and really angry despite the consequences. This kind of severe behavior that lasts for more than 6 months may be a sign of disruptive behavior disorder.

Conduct disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder are two of the most frequent disruptive behavior in childhood and adolescence. These two disorders are different from each other but there is a possibility for a child with CD to have ODD.

ODD and CD have similar clinical features but the clinical features are more severe in CD compared to that of ODD. The etiology and the management of both disorders are also the same.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a chronic disorder that usually begins before the age of eight but can develop as early as four or five years old. ODD is a recurrent pattern of defiant, hostile, negativistic, and disobedient behavior towards adults and authority figures. ODD is characterized by arguing with parents and other people in authority, temper tantrums, defiance, deliberately annoying other people, refusal to comply with directives and requests, being vindictive and spiteful and blaming others for his/her own faults or errors.

The symptoms of the condition usually appear in multiple settings such as at home and in school but these symptoms may be more noticeable in one setting compared to the others. ODD can be caused by a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors.

What is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder (CD) is a serious condition that is typically diagnosed in the teenage years. CD is a persistent and repetitive pattern of antisocial behavior where the individual breaks social rules repeatedly, does a lot of aggressive acts, and violates other people’s basic rights. The symptoms of this condition can be categorized into four: aggression, deceitfulness or theft, destruction of property, and serious violation of rules.

Individuals with CD display little concern for the welfare or feelings of others. They are usually indifferent, apathetic, and heartless to other people’s loss and pain, and they do not show guilt or remorse for their actions or behavior towards others. The associated features of CD include temper tantrums, poor frustration tolerance, recklessness, and irritability.

This condition seems to be associated with a child’s temperament. It is also believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Often loses temper
  • Being uncooperative on purpose
  • An overall irritable and negative attitude
  • Deliberately not following the rules or requests of adults
  • Easily angered or annoyed
  • Blames others for mistakes
  • Argues a lot of adults and authority figures
  • Is resentful or seeks revenge
  • Often in trouble at home or in school
  • Often spiteful and vindictive
  • Often touchy
  • Deliberately annoys people

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

  • Enjoy causing harm and hurting other people
  • Lying without feeling bad about it
  • Serious violation of rules and laws
  • Stealing and destroying things
  • Threatening behavior towards others such as fighting, bullying, and emotional abuse
  • Often intimidates, bullies, or threatens others
  • No respect or regard for other people’s feelings or rights
  • Often triggers physical fights
  • Cruel to people and animals
  • Deliberate destruction of property
  • Deceitfulness or theft
  • Using a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others
  • Stealing, mugging, armed robbery, extortion
  • Breaking into someone else’s house, car, office, or building

Oppositional Defiant Disorder vs Conduct Disorder

ODD is characterized by a child or teenager who often fights against adults and authority figures. A child with ODD usually loses his/her temper, refuses to comply with rules and direction, has a low tolerance for frustration, and resists discipline. The defining feature of this condition is the fight against being controlled. A child with ODD hates being controlled because being controlled feels like they are drowning.

CD is characterized by an adolescent or older child who has escalated into a pattern of violating the rights of others such as aggression or intimidation toward others, deliberate destruction of property, stealing, or violation of rules and laws. An individual with CD has a lack of emotion or empathy wherein he/she does not understand or care about how their behavior can emotionally or physically hurt others.

A major difference between ODD and CD is the role of control. Kids with ODD usually fight against being controlled. Kids with CD also fight against being controlled but will also try to control others. They manipulate others to do and get what they want, use intimidation or aggression to control a situation, and take things that are not theirs just because they want it.