By | February 13, 2010 99 Comments

How does ODD relate to sociopathy?

This week a reader asked about a disorder called ODD and its relationship to sociopathy. ODD or oppositional defiant disorder is a childhood disorder. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists:

In children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the youngster’s day to day functioning. Symptoms of ODD may include:

• Frequent temper tantrums
• Excessive arguing with adults
• Often questioning rules
• Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
• Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
• Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
• Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
• Frequent anger and resentment
• Mean and hateful talking when upset
• Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

I interpret these symptoms as evidence for excessive social dominance motives combined with problems with ability to love in a child/teen. Social dominance motives cause these children to dislike authority and to attempt to control others (both children and adults) by annoying and upsetting them (teasing too). Recent studies have shown that hormones connected to social dominance motives may play a role in ODD (higher androgens and lower cortisol)*.

A major developmental task for humans is to learn to love. That learning begins immediately at birth. A very elegant series of studies by Patricia Hawley Ph.D. and others has demonstrated that Social Dominance motives begin later, in the toddler years.

During childhood the social motives for love and power have to integrate and balance each other. A loving peaceful family life is central to this integration. Also the power motive must be shaped. This shaping of the power motive has two aspects to it. First children learn the best prosocial ways to enjoy power. They learn to restrain their aggressive and sadistic impulses. In children with ODD and CD (the precursors to antisocial personality in adulthood) this learning doesn’t happen.

Children also learn to channel some of their power motives in to achievement motivation. Disinterest for achievement and disinterest in school are linked to antisocial behavior in children and teens because absent achievement dominance motives lack appropriate channels for expression.

ODD is often connected to CD (conduct disorder) and ADHD, but may also occur without these other disorders. Many studies have examined the extent to which ODD is genetic and environmentally determined. Both genes and environment interact to cause ODD.

In a paper that is now 11 years old Distinct Contributions of Conduct and Oppositional Defiant Symptoms to Adult Antisocial Behavior : Evidence From an Adoption Study Douglas R. Langbehn, MD, PhD and colleagues presented their study of 197 adopted children a quarter of whom had a biologic parent with sociopathy. They concluded:

It seems plausible that a genetically transmitted liability to sociopathy might manifest earlier in life as the personality-like symptoms of ODD rather than the behaviorally oriented criteria for conduct disorder. After all, it is difficult to conceive of a gene for stealing cars. On the other hand, genetic influences on temperament leading to typical ODD features do not seem so far-fetched.

They also stated that independent of the antisocial behavior seen in CD, the behavior that manifests as ODD is an independent risk factor for adult sociopathy:

STUDIES SUCH as that by Loeber et al, which found that severe childhood conduct disorder is often preceded by ODD, suggest the hypothesis that ODD may only be a risk factor for sociopathy if it is a predecessor to a conduct syndrome. This idea is not supported by our data, because the ODD component was found to be an independent risk factor. Furthermore, examination of the joint distribution of estimated component scores in males (not shown) demonstrated that many adoptees had elevations in the ODD component only.

It is important for parents to realize that not every child with ODD or even CD becomes an adult sociopath. Parenting can make a difference for a substantial percentage of children. Even the most loving and devoted parents should get professional help with their ODD/CD kids.

Professional help is needed because these kids are so hard on parents and the development of parental resentment and negativity is linked to a bad prognosis for these kids (though the chicken and egg here have not been determined). Parents should be realistic, protect themselves and yet try to stay hopeful and positive. They should be loving and yet set firm limits. They should also spend lots of quality time with their kids and supervise them closely. These are exceedingly difficult tasks to accomplish!

You might be wondering why I haven’t commented on the proposed DSM V revision of antisocial personality. Since we want everyone to give us their unbiased, independent reactions, I am not going to comment until we close the survey. Please complete the survey so we can send the strongest possible message to the DSM committee. These criteria will be very important in legal procedings and in public education.

Link to survey

* I have posted the summaries of articles about Antisocial Disorders, ASPD, ODD and CD on a new web site My Psychology Professor*. This web site is intended to help students of psychology find articles and write term papers. I hope it will also be a source for people who want detailed information about topics in psychology. There is also a complete collection of papers about social dominance on this site.

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of
Ox Drover

Dear Liane,

Thanks for this great artricle. I have worked with these children in an inpatient setting, and seen a few in the “free world” and worked with a few in the outpatient setting along with their parents.

In many of these kids, I have seen the “joy” that they obviously feel when they are defying authority. I have also observed this behavior in two year olds when they are playing the game of running away and coming closer to you but not letting you “catch” them. In the two year old I think this is a normal activity, and has no other meaning than the child is learning he is independent from mommie, but in the 10-12 year old kid, it seems to have a malovent component. It is sort of like the smirk of a P who has successfully pulled one off or is about to.

I have known parents who felt (and I believe were) unsafe to go to sleep in the same house with these children as young as 10, for fear the kid would burn down the house while they slept.

I also had a patient whose 14 year old bit her so severely that I actually had to take a few sutures to keep the wounds from gapping open, there were almost chunks bitten out. Getting help from social services was difficult, as it is set up some how I think to protect the KIDS from an abusive parent, but not so much to protect a parent from an abusive child.

I called social services about this situation, and they told me that if the mother did not return home, that they would prosecute HER for child abandonment. I instructed the mother to drive her car to her home, but not to get out, to sleep in the car in the yard with the DOORS locked until morning, at which time we could contact someone else. We finally did get a judge to get this child picked up by the sheriff’s office and sent for inpatient evaluation the next day.

At one institution I worked at, we had about 60 of these kids from age 7 to 17 (on various units not together) and some came from horrible social backgrounds but many also came from “good” families, and quite a few were adopted as infants.

Witsend’s son seems to have been more like my P-son, and not started “acting out” really badly until puberty hit and the definance set in. We also had another poster on here some months or a year back who had a 10 or 12 year old daughter she was having a horrible time getting placed in an inpatient setting. The frustration felt by the parents when there is no help for them until the child either hurts someone severely or themselves can be crazy-making for the parents. Plus the fact that when the child misbehaves the parent is blamed for not “making them behave.”

Witsend was told by several people “just make him take his medication”—how do you physically FORCE a 16 year old to take a pill? At gunpoint? Even the best parent is hog-tied when the child knows they can’t be “made” to do something and they are totally unwilling to cooperate, either by the “carrot method” or the “stick method” either—as there is no prize they care enough about to strive for, or no “stick” big enough to make them afraid of punishment.



What a wonderful help you are!

I don’t know how to thank you — you are making it so easy to conduct research on personality disorders. This is a great contribution to academia as well as “the real world.”

My son is at risk. His father is a perfect match for the proposed category “antisocial/psychopathic type,” and my son has been suspected of ODD in the past.

I’ve been working with him assiduously to explore his behavior and to explain why it isn’t appropriate even when it “feels” right, because it’s genetic. He’s made great strides — he has become so self-aware now, and I’m proud of him.

But we had some rocky moments…that’s for sure.

At any rate, I’m now studying psychology — the beginning stages — and sharing with him. I’m taking a full load of courses in the fall. Even if I don’t make the great breakthroughs, he might. He is also quite interested in psychology, and wants to go to medical school, so perhaps he will use this to take the knowledge further.

Thank you. THANK YOU!


Thanks Liane, I often wondered what the difference was between CD and ODD.

Elizabeth Conley

My heart goes out to these parents.

Sometimes there really is very little a parent can do.

Ox Drover

Dear Trophy,

Congratulations on working with your son, and helping him to “get it.” While genetics DO have some input, they are not destiny, at least not early on before the “concrete is set”—as in the case with my own P-son.

Thanks for posting, and glad you are here reading, there is so much good information here. God bless you.


Thank you so very much for answering my question.
I’m just delving into this ‘topic’ as I believe this could be a big issue with one of my kids.
Your last paragraph struck me …..
” the development of parental resentment and negativity is linked to a bad prognosis for these kids (though the chicken and egg here have not been determined). Parents should be realistic, protect themselves and yet try to stay hopeful and positive. They should be loving and yet set firm limits. They should also spend lots of quality time with their kids and supervise them closely. These are exceedingly difficult tasks to accomplish!”

I wrestle with times (when i let so much go)….and I expect one simple thing to help me….and I’m blown off with no regard. I grow resentment and ‘shut down’…..
I’m not sure I can do much at this point in life….he’s almost 18 and makes poor choices.
I thank god he’s not involved in drugs or criminal behavior…..but I don’t know whats around the corner for him.
I CAN”T support his behaviors.
If he knows something will hurt me or put me in a bind…..he’ll do it.
this is where my resentment grows. I’m in a resentment phase.
I”m tired!!!!
He has no problem asking for whatever he wants and even at his age throws tantrums. He was a wicked tantrum thrower at 2 even! WICKED!

I don’t want to give up…..BUT….I need to learn how to put ME first….take care of my health and well being above his….I have NEVER learned how to do this….it was part of my ‘style’ of mothering….’it’s for the kids’….
I am thankful that they had my influence… their father wasn’t around as much….BUT….they all have his genes….and this one definately challenges me the most!
I feel stuck with it… do I cope…without giving up!
At 18 do I boot him…..or do I continue to try and ‘help’ him?
Is it too late….do I let him ‘fly’ on his own….and let the world teach him what I have tried?
Do I watch him grow into a diagnosable Sociopath?

Thanks again for your response, it’s very helpful knowledge!


to let everyone know ”“ i made a ’valentine’s card’ for us @

anything you want to post, just send it through to me at the email listed there.

someone please tell hens when he shows up.

going bakc to bed now.

x one step


OneStep You made my Valentines Day ( someone please tell hens when he shows up ).. That was nice to think of me. I have been feeling like my presense here is not that wanted. Maybe it’s just the Valentine Day thing that has me feeling blah. But really you made my day..I want to wish you and everyone here a very happy valentines day. Well maybe I dont really cause it sucks big time..But if’n I could I would give everybody here a big hug and box of chocolates


hens….! if you didn’t post in the middle of the night, really you keep vampire hours! i only get to hang out with you if i stay up really late. i think we have a lot of east coast folks here.

i’ll be taking the big box of chocolates, thank you very much!
and huuuugss, yep, right back at cha!

okay, really going to be now. i am not a well cookie today.

x night night


get your bouncy hair on…..were all going on a date tomorrow night!
BTW…..Bring the Godiva!!!
Don’t ever question your ‘worth’ around here… keep me laughing….


hi miss erin so where are we all going?


I’ve invited you all to accompany me on my ‘first’ date tomorrow night…..with armed, federal marshall man.

I have requested we all put on our bouncy hair…..were going local… a hotel on the lake…..very lodgy… not formal…..leave the ballgowns in the closet!
I need to go prep….figure out something other than sweats that fit…..i KNOW i got some kick ass shoes……but I guess I can’t go necked with my shoes…..
Maybe just jeans and a little get up huh…..


Erin – Have fun. But I think I am jealous – so I better not tag along…


Erin – have a wonderful time … and don’t worry about ‘shutting the farck up’ – any man worthy of you will be fine with whatever comes out of your mouth – if he has a problem – well your LF friends have your back – we’ll just give him a severe talking to 🙂

Go wearing something you are comfy in – not sweats obviously lol but something you can move in and feel nice in 🙂

Have a wonderful time and be home by midnight!


Don’t hate the ‘playa’. 🙂
Ya know……if it wasn’tfor you all…..I’d certainly not be in any position to be asked out….I don’t think anyone would even ask for a woman, walking around life with an oozy on her backs…..shooting at anyone who get’s close….. phone number…..
Ya’ll have helped me put that gun down and open up myself for fun.
Now it’s up to me to fine tune the teqnique.

Who’s home…….

Okay….i’ll put the sweats away.


EB, you said: ‘I don’t think anyone would even ask for a woman, walking around life with an oozy on her backs”..shooting at anyone who get’s close”.. phone number’

…um, except maybe a weapon’s expert. 😉

i would suspect you won’t scare this guy one bit. have SO much fun!


OK, Erin.
Countdown time to the big date tonight, right?
Got the bouncy hair, makeup, shoes, ensemble? Good.

Keep the conversation light & airy.
Let him reveal details about himself first.

You know the red flags to watch for.

I’ll say a small prayer that this guy does not kiss like a crocodile.

Now, get out there and get your man!!


The bouncy hair will come AFTER my bacon and pancakes!

And NO CROCODILES!!!! Maybe not even a kiss ……
I am a COMPLETE virgin….these days…..NOTHING….not even a hand holding since the S…..eeeesssshhh!
I may be the one that is the crocodile kisser….yikes…..
I think I’ll start with a cordial hug…..


I think I’m gonna leave the oozy in the car tonight…..
I’m gonna try to ‘play nice’.
Don’t want to turn him on too soon huh…

Your post cracked me up….
I hope your feeling better today sweetie!


I hope Erin’s date with Marshall Dillon is going well. I had a nice VD day after all. I went to a Movie with my girlfriend, we saw Dear John, a good sappy love story were everybody get’s hurt in the end. Then we went to a nice resturant and drank perfect margarittas and talked non-stop..and we went dutch. As far as the ex S goes – I hope he got a VD today.


I am so glad you had a nice day today. I would like to see that movie…It looks like a good sappy love story from the previews.

I think Valentines day should = “VICTORY” day for all Lfs today. A Spath free holiday.

I’m watching the olympics…Well trying to. I want to watch the ice skating but not what is going on inbetween. I don’t like when they go back and forth. They loose me and I find something else to do.


Hi Witty – Happy Valentines Day too you…


Thanks hens… I wonder how Erins date is going….Hope she is having a great time.


Well the fact she is not posting is a good sign..I am happy she had a date..hope it goes better than my blinddate a few months ago. I did have a pleasant day with my friend Barb. I recommend that movie Wit, it is kinda slow but worth seeing….


so, i finally go out – after 2 days in bed, to sit in a cafe and cough on everyone. am on my way to the bus and i get mugged.

happy fucking valentine’s day.

i am not hurt and they got 3 bucks.

stoooopid. who risks jail time for 3 bucks?

i only got partial plates. didn’t feel that chasing their van was a smart idea. home safe. no booze in the house. damn. could use a shot. took rescue remedy instead. 😉

today sucked. but i am not harmed.

i was carrying a bag of groceries. but they didn’t take that??? 40 bugs worth of groceries. they got my bus fare instead. stooopid.


Yep thats what I was thinking….Still on the date, might be a good sign.

Well we might get hammered with some more snow starting tomorrow night. Lake effect, so that is harder to predict. They always say something like 6 to 12 inches on the news. Duh…Big difference.

But if it isn’t to bad I might grab a girlfriend of mine and go see that movie mid week. She likes going to the show too, and her husband travels for his job during the week.


i really didn’t need another adrenaline rush.


onestep – I am so sorry to hear about your day – I am happy you are ok and have some groceries – please be careful – i keep a ball bat in my truck, I call it my equalizer…Wit – are you on the east coast? It snowed here again this morning..the news said this morning it was snowing in 49 states at the same time can you believe this weather?


hi hens, thank-you. it was comforting to know that someone would be online when i got home (spent an hour with the cops and its late).

i was sick,shakey and a bit off my game, or it might have come down a bit differently.

i miss my truck 🙁

and my tire iron.


fairly certain this joker wouldn’t know what to do with tahini and chick peas. am very glad he wasn’t smart enough to grab my groceries.


One Step,
That really sucks….I am sorry that you had to have this experience. It is good that you were not hurt. And I am also glad they didn’t get your groceries.


No I am near lake Michigan. That lake causes our lovely lake effect..


me too witty! 😉

i just gave everything i had in my pockets. i am glad i wasn’t carrying a whole bunch more money – nothing is worth get hurt over.


was eb just going for dinner? probably a couple more hours before she is home.

i hope she had a really good time.


I think it was a dinner date…..But someone on here gave her a curfew to be home by midnight….Depending on what time zone she is in, she might be considered late! Lol…


i think she’s on the west coast witty – not sure.


One step,
I hope you can process what happened to you today and not become tramatized by this experience. Being violated like this……Sometimes these things can be difficult to deal with.

I had someone break my bedroom window once at 2;30 in the morning, woke me out of a dead sleep, and I thought they were breaking into my house. I couldn’t sleep at night for a very long time afterwards. My dogs didn’t bark??? (wtf?) The cop took quite awile to arrive to the house….It was something that took me awile to get over.


if miss erin is having a good time she wont remember her curfew or us for that fact…i bet we will get all the details soon..wit I am not sure what you mean by lake effect but it sounds in Okla we say if you dont like the weather wait five minutes and it will change..well i have to get to bed gnite my friends – onestep – you need rest tonite..and Wit is right you were violated – that makes me so mad that someone would do that to you or anyone – its a reality we all must be aware of tho – there is a booger man around every corner just waiting for us – be aware and stay safe….


hi witty – you know, there is a surreal damaged quality to my life right now.

i am so glad you said this. cause i am sitting here kind of in suspended animation. and your saying this shifted things.

immediately after it happened it made me think about carrying a gun. i know all the blah blah about not carrying guns cause they can hurt you with one (and i am in canada where it is illegal), but really how do we equalize this crap?

i see that where i was walking and how (not paying enough attention) wasn’t good. probably wouldn’t have been where i was if i had been feeling better and thinking clearer.

i really hope they have enough to find these assholes. 2 guys. one driving, one with his hand on wa sa bit of an oout of body experience.

i keep thinking how STOOPID they were. and that i am glad i made the choices i did.

i had someone try to break into my place int he middle of the night many years ago – someone who was quite deranged. shook me up like crazy.

tonight it felt more like – more evidence of stoopid in the world, just more one more fucking thing to deal with. more that anything i am angry. and glad i wasn’t hurt. and i feel sick.

so, how damaged is my sense of the world that this just feels like another thing to deal. thankyou once again to the spath bitch for fucking me over.


good night hens! and this dude was around the literally corner! 😉

one of the things i used in my police report as a descriptor ws, ‘stooopid.’

night night


Damn girl……I am sorry….your not feeling well….then you get jumped….WTF? $3.00……
I agree….we are heading for vigilantism……
If there are NO consequences….and no conscious….then whats holding anyone back from this behavior?


I hope tomorrow is a better day…..


Okay….I’m back!
Can one say RED FLAG, RED FLAG……
The guy starts looking at my jewelry……but it became his excuse to hold my hand….. in a wierd way…..he was playing with my bracelets…..and I wanted MY HAND BACK!!!!
Not….so smooth! I took it back and held onto my water glass.

He talked and talked about his dead wife…..
and GET THIS…..put his phone on the table and responded to all texts…..WTF?
Then he wanted to show me pics in his phone….okay…..
OF HIS DOG…..his dog and dead wife…..and the boobs from his last date that texted him a booby shot! then his dead wife hunting and his dead wife lifting up her shirt while hunting….another booby shot.
uh….okay Mr. magilicutty……armed or NOT….I’m done looking at pictures!
I told him NOT to hold his breath about getting those shots from me….for 3 reasons…..I DON”T TEXT…2. I DON”T TEXT BODY SHOTS and 3. I won’t text him.

He went into his sexual Polyamorous…>>RED FLAG, RED FLAG diatribe…..
AND ….a.t that point…..I asked him if he had sexual encounters with men….changed it right up…..and he was SOOOOO OFFENDED….why would you ask that…..I said….why would it NOT be possible to be polyamouros and NOT have a male in your bed???????
I was so laughing…….and I knew you were all there with me….throwing knives at the wack job.

He shared with me the internal investigation results when he LEFT the police dept….oh but don’t worry folks….he’s a fed. marshall now…..we are all safe!

So…..he’s NOT the type of guy that he came across to be in the court house…..all his little secrets oooozzzed out of him, he just couldn’t control himslef……

The rest. mgr.came up to us and said are you ready to be seated……I said….Oh,no….we aren’t here for dinner.
Mr. marshall went into more life detail….until I stopped him, told him we just were NOT made for each other and scadaddled….I took my bouncy hair and
I went somewhere else to decompress…..and laugh with my GF’s….

Get this…..HE gave me a label….MS. CONSERVATIVE.
EB conservative…..well if conservative is being monogomous….and having self respect and not oozing slime on a first date…..okay….conservative it is.
He said…you need to live recklessly, like I do.
I said….uh yeah….and hows it working for ya?????

I thought….dude if you know how recklessly I have lived without knowing it for 28 years…….you would NEVER say this!

Okay….so how many red flags do I need…..
ONE….got it….hold your breath for the booby shots homey.

This guy was a wacko wrapped up in a cop disguise……..
Wanting to play daddyo to anyone who would take him.

So….chalk it up to learning that I really do want to be the celebate Lesbian that I have become!!!!


Oh yeah…..forgot the part where he said he was pretty sure he was a sex addict at one point in his life!


Rosa….I tried to keep it light…..but what does one say when THIS comes up…..

And hens….ummmmm, forget about you guys….Don’t think so!

Thanks for pulling for me…..we tried!


Let’s do a little Sociopathic recap…..
How many red flags did YOU recognize in my date?

super chic

EB, jeez, OMG, no he didn’t, asshole alert!!!!
scum sucking SOB, I want to puke.
What rock did he crawl out from under? El Capitan?
It’s the only rock that I can think of that would be
BIG ENOUGH to cover him.
I am sorry this happened to you, but I give you props
for giving it a shot.
Love that you asked him if he has been with men.
Ms. Conservative, what a dumb ass thing to say.

You are fabulous. I have to let this sink in.
Love, your CA time zone buddy.

Dear One step, Im so sorry, Ive just this minute read that youd been mugged. Im so relieved your OK.! havea hot bath with sweet smelling bath oil if you have any. go to bed witha hot drink, and your rescue remedy. Thinking of you. Love. mama Gem.XX

My God, EB, they are EVERYWHERE! Glad you found out early on, and got out fast!! No wonder you want to be a celibate lesbian . Or maybe a Nun on the Run? Thank God you sill have your sense of humour intact. I hope you kneed him in the balls! I think a good therapy would be to go see the movie “Tootsie’ with Dustin Hofman in it. have you seen it? Its so funny.He plays an out of work male actor, dressed up as a woman to get work on a daytime soap, its hilarious. At one point, he advises all the Nurses to get an electric cattle prod if the sleaze bag doctor tries to seduce them, and zap them in the bazzoobies! Now go have a stiff drink, you so deserve it! Love, gem.XX


aw shit EB!

i am real proud of you that you threw the deal breaker out on the table soon as you could see that the bed was made, um no, that’s supposed to be, ‘the stage was set.’

well, fuck you, fuck you very much! that’s a pretty acute devalue/discard arc, n’est pa? didn’t even get to dinner before he was trying to shame and devalue you. Snort! fucking loser.

this is not going to continue to happen EB. I swear there will ordinary don’t like him that much guys, mmm, like him a bit guys, and yaw, like him even more guys.

and you have very wisely created a safety net, a way to debrief and keep your power. you are going to be just fine.

(WHO the fuck shows booby pics of their ‘dead’ spouse, EVER????? I was looking for a ride to another city a few years ago, and posted on a local listserve i was active on – small group of academics mostly, and this freakwad, said, yah, i can give you a ride, and on the 2nd email sorting out times,etc. as to whether it might be possible he sends me a naked torso shot of his gf. um, nooooo. i’d crawl on my hands and knees and fucking lick pavement before i got in to a car with you bud.)

right now, i’d say it was disordered dirtballs 0, EB 4.

…and believe me, ‘celibate lesbian’ just sucks…and not in a good way 😉

one step


…oh, and he pulled the ‘ms.’ conservative…so OBVIOUSLY, as we all know , you are a f-e-m-i-n-i-s-t ’cause you reject dirtbags. In his mind you are half way to being a dyke! ouu, that means he could get you and your best gf into bed….Snort!





Send this to a friend