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Most children show oppositional or defiant behaviors at some point in life, particularly in adolescence. Some youth may even have great difficulty following rules or behaving in socially accepted ways. However, sometimes these behaviors (i.e., arguing, talking back, and getting into fights) occur so frequently that they begin to negatively affect youths’ family, social lives, and school. Instead of being viewed by others as having a mental health difficulty, these kids are often unfairly thought of as “bad” or “delinquent.”

There are several types of disruptive behavior disorders:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Disruptive Behavior Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

Children misbehave for a number of reasons. Some potential causes include genetics, brain damage, child abuse, school failure, challenging parent-child relationships, difficult life experiences and peer influence. While there are effective and proven treatments, these treatments often require a lot of effort on the part of the parents or guardians. If you believe that your child may have these problems, he/she should receive an evaluation from the doctor as soon as possible.



Symptoms of disruptive behavior are often broken up into two types: oppositionality and conduct-related problems.

Kids with problems with oppositionality often:

  • Throw temper tantrums
  • Argue with adults and peers
  • Question rules
  • Defy adult requests and rules
  • Try to annoy or upset people
  • Blame others for their own mistakes or misbehavior
  • Are easily annoyed
  • Are angry
  • Try to get back at others when they are wronged

Youth with conduct-related problems may show symptoms such as:

  • Aggression to people and animals
  • Bullying others
  • Getting into fights
  • Using a harmful weapon against someone in a fight
  • Being physically mean to people or animals
  • Forcefully stealing from a victim
  • Forcing someone into a sexual act

Destroying property

  • Setting fires on purpose to destroy property
  • Destroying other people’s property on purpose

Deceitfulness, lying, or stealing

  • Breaking into a car, house, or building
  • Lying to get something or to avoid having to do something
  • Stealing without telling anyone

Serious rule-breaking

  • Breaking curfew
  • Running away from home
  • Skipping school



  • About 28% of youth served by the Hawaii Department of Health have a disruptive behavior diagnosis
  • Many youth with a disruptive behavior problem also have other behavioral or emotional difficulties (e.g., sadness, anxiousness, difficulty with attention, substance use)
  • Boys are more likely than girls to have disruptive behavior problems
  • About 30% of children with an Oppositional Defiant Disorder go on to develop Conduct Disorder



  • When should you be concerned and what to do about it if you are seeing signs of behavioral challenges in your child? Dr. Mark Eddie, Director of Research from Partners for Children at the University of Washington, talks about the importance of early interventions and the importance of family-focused treatments and involvement. He also discusses the approaches a family should take in finding an appropriate therapist in the community. Please click here to watch the video. 

See What Works (for children 12 and under):

Tangible Rewards
Differential Reinforcement

Parent Management Training [PMT]
Multisystemic Therapy [MST]

See What Works (for children 13 and over):

Tangible Rewards

Goal Setting
Communication Skills

Parent Management Training [PMT]
Multisystemic Therapy [MST]

Information for this site has been obtained from the following resources: