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Skipper L Harvey, PsyD
December 8, 2014

Child Behavior Disorders

Let’s face it…all kids misbehave sometimes. One of the questions that we frequently ask ourselves when our children are engaging in unwanted behavior is, “Why?” Sometimes our children act out as the result of an unfilled need and we can often determine this need by the way we feel when the behavior occurs. For example, if we feel annoyed when our child is acting out then there is a high likelihood that our child is wanting our attention and if they can’t get our positive attention, then they will settle for our negative attention. Basically, they’ll take what they can get. If we feel angry when our child misbehaves then it is possible that our child is desiring power; therefore, we need to find a way to allow our child to have more choices and control. A child’s behavior almost always serves some type of purpose for that child; however, when you find yourself with more questions than answers, it may be time to consider a more serious condition.

Disruptive behavior disorders include Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD). Behaviors characteristic of these disorders include temper tantrums, physical aggression which may involve attacking other children, excessive argumentativeness, stealing, and overall defiance or resistance to authority. More often than not, behaviors related to these disorders have a negative impact on school performance, family and peer relationships, and often increase in frequency and duration over time.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

As defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), ODD includes persistent symptoms of “negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behaviors toward authority figures.” A child with this disorder may frequently display the following behaviors:

Argues with adults, in particular parents
Loses temper easily
Refuses to follow rules
Blames others for his/her own mistakes
Deliberately annoys others
Is angry and resentful of others

ODD usually begins prior to the age of 8-years-old and is rarely diagnosed after early adolescence. ODD is sometimes a precursor to conduct disorder.

Conduct Disorder

As defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), characteristics of CD include "a persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate social norms are violated." Behaviors fall into the following categories:

Aggression toward people and animals
Destruction of property without aggression toward people or animals
Deceitfulness, lying, and theft
Serious violations of rules

Often, CD appears in early or middle childhood as oppositional defiant disorder. Conduct disorder is sometimes a precursor to antisocial personality disorder which is not diagnosed until an individual is 18 years of age.

Seeking Professional Help

When a child’s behavior is severe or frequent, it may be necessary to schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health professional in order to determine the cause of the child’s difficulty. Without early diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms of ODD may become severe enough to eventually warrant a diagnosis of CD. One of the most effective methods to treat disruptive behavior disorders is behavior therapy. This type of therapeutic approach reinforces desirable behaviors in order to eliminate undesirable or maladaptive behaviors. Parent education is also beneficial.

Websites for Additional Information


About Dr. Skipper

Dr. Skipper is a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist who works extensively with children, adolescents, and families to provide therapy and psychoeducational assessment services.

She received her doctorate degree from the Florida School of Professional Psychology.  Dr. Skipper has worked with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings which include mental health clinics, residential settings, drug treatment facilities, and schools.

Through the integration of a variety of empirically-based treatment approaches, Dr. Skipper assists her clients by providing new skills and empowering strategies to build distress tolerance, enhance awareness and communication, facilitate insight, and challenge maladaptive relationship and thinking patterns. She employs an active therapeutic stance to facilitate long-lasting, positive change. 

Dr. Skipper’s background also includes a B.A. in Elementary Education with 11 years of experience in primary education. 


Disclaimer: The above information is not intended to provide professional advice or diagnostic service. If you have any concerns about Child Behavior Disorders or other health issues, please consult a qualified health care professional in your community.