Conduct Disorder vs. Oppositional Defiant Disorder

What's the Difference?

Conduct Disorder (CD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are both childhood behavioral disorders, but they differ in terms of severity and specific symptoms. CD is characterized by a repetitive pattern of behavior that violates the rights of others or societal norms, such as aggression, destruction of property, and deceitfulness. ODD, on the other hand, involves a persistent pattern of defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior towards authority figures, but without the severe aggression seen in CD. While both disorders can cause significant impairment in social, academic, and family functioning, CD is generally considered more severe and is often a precursor to more serious antisocial behaviors in adulthood.


AttributeConduct DisorderOppositional Defiant Disorder
DefinitionA repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.A pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least 6 months.
Age of OnsetUsually begins in childhood or adolescence.Typically starts in early childhood.
SeverityCan range from mild to severe.Can range from mild to severe.
AggressionOften involves physical aggression towards people or animals.May display anger and defiance, but physical aggression is less common.
Rule ViolationConsistently violates rules and disregards the rights of others.Often challenges authority figures and rules, but may not consistently violate them.
ComorbidityCommonly co-occurs with other mental health disorders, such as ADHD or substance use disorders.Can be comorbid with other disorders, including ADHD and mood disorders.
TreatmentMay involve therapy, behavior management techniques, and medication in some cases.Treatment often includes therapy, parent training, and school-based interventions.

Further Detail


Conduct Disorder (CD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are two common childhood behavioral disorders that can have significant impacts on a child's social, emotional, and academic functioning. While both disorders involve disruptive behaviors, they differ in terms of severity, duration, and specific symptoms. Understanding the attributes of each disorder is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective intervention. This article aims to compare the attributes of Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, shedding light on their distinct characteristics.

Diagnostic Criteria

Conduct Disorder is diagnosed when a child consistently displays a pattern of aggressive, antisocial, and rule-breaking behaviors. These behaviors may include physical aggression towards people or animals, destruction of property, theft, deceitfulness, and serious violations of rules. In contrast, Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by a recurrent pattern of angry, irritable, and defiant behaviors. Children with ODD often argue with adults, refuse to comply with rules, deliberately annoy others, and blame others for their mistakes.

Age of Onset

Conduct Disorder typically emerges during late childhood or early adolescence, with symptoms becoming more pronounced over time. It is often preceded by Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which usually manifests during preschool or early school years. While ODD is considered a milder form of disruptive behavior, it can progress to CD if left untreated or unaddressed.

Severity and Impairment

Conduct Disorder is generally more severe than Oppositional Defiant Disorder. CD is associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in serious acts of aggression, such as physical fights or cruelty towards animals. Individuals with CD may also exhibit a lack of empathy, disregard for others' rights, and a tendency to engage in risky behaviors. These behaviors often lead to significant impairment in various domains, including academic performance, peer relationships, and family functioning. On the other hand, ODD, while still disruptive, is typically less severe and may cause less impairment in daily functioning.


Both Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder frequently co-occur with other mental health conditions. Conduct Disorder is commonly associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance use disorders, and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. ODD is also frequently comorbid with ADHD, as well as learning disorders and anxiety disorders. The presence of comorbid conditions can complicate the diagnosis and treatment of both disorders, requiring a comprehensive and integrated approach.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors play a significant role in the development and maintenance of both Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Children with CD or ODD often come from families with a history of parental conflict, inconsistent discipline, harsh parenting practices, or neglect. Additionally, exposure to violence, abuse, or trauma can contribute to the development of these disorders. It is important to consider the broader context in which these behaviors occur and address any underlying environmental factors that may be contributing to the child's difficulties.

Treatment Approaches

Effective treatment for Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder typically involves a combination of therapeutic interventions and support for the child and their family. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help children develop problem-solving skills, anger management strategies, and empathy towards others. Parent management training (PMT) is another evidence-based approach that focuses on teaching parents effective discipline techniques, communication skills, and strategies for managing challenging behaviors. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to target specific symptoms or comorbid conditions.


Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder are distinct childhood behavioral disorders that share some similarities but also have important differences. Conduct Disorder is characterized by more severe and aggressive behaviors, often leading to significant impairment in various areas of life. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, while still disruptive, is typically less severe and may cause less impairment. Understanding the attributes of each disorder is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention. By addressing these disorders early and providing comprehensive support, we can help children and their families navigate the challenges and promote positive behavioral and emotional development.

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