Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

I was listening to the radio and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Literally. A behavioral psychologist had given a name to what years ago used to be called "rebellion." It is now called "Oppositional Defiant Disorder."

This is from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

All children are oppositional from time to time, particularly when tired, hungry, stressed or upset. They may argue, talk back, disobey, and defy parents, teachers, and other adults. Oppositional behavior is often a normal part of development for two to three year olds and early adolescents. However, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child's social, family, and academic life.

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
  • 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
  • seeking revenge

The symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings, but may be more noticeable at home or at school. Five to fifteen percent of all school‑age children have ODD. The causes of ODD are unknown...
So now there is another medical explanation for one more type of bad behavior. This is what happens when we assume that we are nothing but molecules in motion. No one is responsible for his or her behavior. And if one of these kids commits a crime......well, we certainly can't punish someone for being sick, can we?


    1. Is punishment intended to stop the rebellion or just settle the score?

    2. Good question. I think the motivation for punishment has changed over the years. When people were considered to be responsible for their actions, prisons were called penitentiaries — which comes from the word penitent — implying something done to induce repentance or remorse.

      But, if all crime is the result of chemical processes, why should anyone be sorry for anything? As Perry says, your actions are all inevitable. So, why punish anyone?

    3. If you start the conversation with the realization that all things are inevitable based on the laws of physics, there's no conversation left to have. You punish people because that's what you will inevitably do. This however, makes for dull conversations and is about as useful as answering questions about the natural world with "God just made it that way".

      I believe in punishment for crimes even though committing crimes may be unfairly written into the perpetrator's DNA. It's reasonable and logical that if society agrees murder is immoral, we should put murderers in jail to prevent them from doing it again. Why they commit their crimes is irrelevant.

      By the way, psychology is a notoriously "soft" science and I reject most everything learned from it. There are some empirical psychologists who actually use data to make conclusions rather than create experiments to support their conclusions, but not many. Labels like these are worthless. Real knowledge comes from fields like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics & maybe Biology.

    4. You said, "It's reasonable and logical that if society agrees murder is immoral, we should put murderers in jail to prevent them from doing it again. Why they commit their crimes is irrelevant."

      I agree with that. (That's partly why I'm opposed to "hate crimes" legislation. If one person assaults another person, they should get the same punishment whether their motivation was robbery or racism.)

      I also agree with you about psychology, and to some extent, psychiatry as well. Fuzzy sciences at best.

      However, I'm still looking for an answer to this question: Since you mentioned that society may agree that murder is immoral, does that mean that society determines what is moral and what isn't?

      I know, you said morality is biological. But, say society agrees that murder is acceptable. Would that society be wrong to do so?

    5. From my perspective our society does say murder is acceptable every time they break the "thou shalt not kill" commandment by killing people with electric chairs or lethal injections. This is immoral to me but not society as a whole. (I'd say immoral by Biblical standards too but what do I know). I think society is wrong and believe as we continue to progress as civilized humans, we'll come to see capital punishment as immoral too.

      Society does determine what is moral. A few hundred years ago, slavery was seen as moral. Even God supported it in the Bible. Slowly, society collectively decided it wasn't moral and now it's seen as immoral. People decided slavery was immoral, not God or the Bible. In fact, abolitionists had a tough time convincing the general public that freeing slaves was not against God's will. When society wants God's message of morality to be different, it just changes what God's words mean.

    6. You said, "I think society is wrong..." [to allow capital punishment] and "This is immoral to me but not society as a whole."

      But, then you said, "Society does determine what is moral."

      These statements appear to contradict each other. Society cannot ultimately determine what is moral AND be wrong about that determination.

      If society can be wrong about what is moral, then there must be a standard which is higher than society.

      If each individual decides what is right and wrong, than no individual can be in a position to say another individual is wrong.