Parent–Child Synchrony in Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Associations with Treatment Outcomes

Abstract

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), characterized by angry/irritable mood, and argumentative/defiant behavior, is associated with significant negative outcomes in childhood and beyond. Researchers posit that these behaviors arise from poor parenting and/or an incompatibility between characteristics of the child and the child’s parents, resulting in strained interaction styles. The present study examines parent–child synchrony, the inverse of parent–child incompatibility as a predictor of children’s emotional lability, aggression, and overall functioning following psychosocial treatment. Participants were 75 treatment-seeking families with children diagnosed with ODD (46 boys). Families received one of two empirically supported treatments for ODD (Parent Management Training or Collaborative and Proactive Solutions). Findings indicated that pre-treatment parent–child synchrony was associated with decreased emotional lability and aggression following both treatments, as well as improvement in overall functioning, irrespective of treatment condition. These results reflect the importance of parent–child relations at the onset of treatment in predicting response to treatment and suggest potential treatment targets within parent–child relationships.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Institute for Mental Health (Treatment of Oppositional Youth, R01 MH59308). The authors would like to extend special thanks to the families who participated in this research, the staff of the Child Study Center, and Social Development Lab.

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Correspondence to Rachel L. Miller-Slough.

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Miller-Slough, R.L., Dunsmore, J.C., Ollendick, T.H. et al. Parent–Child Synchrony in Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Associations with Treatment Outcomes. J Child Fam Stud 25, 1880–1888 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-015-0356-7

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Keywords

  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Parent–child synchrony
  • Treatment outcomes
  • Adjustment
  • Psychosocial treatment