HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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Oppositional Defiant Behavior & Genetics

Hi Mark

Thank you for your parenting therapy online workshop. I have found it extremely useful, at the moment I am still on assignment one, but it has made a great difference to how I think about things and how I handle situations with my son, C___.

The peculiar thing is that when I did the over indulgent parent quiz with regards to my 15 year old son, I scored 89 out of 100, a really high over indulgent mark, which was not good! Out of interest, I then completed it on how my husband (my son's stepfather of 10 years) and I had been with my daughter when she was 15, (she is now 22). That time I had scored 59 which was exactly where the quiz stated we should be aiming for.

Amazingly, or I guess not so amazingly, she was a grade A student, we never had any problems with her, she doesn't smoke or drink particularly as she doesn't like it much. She has also never taken drugs and has never committed a crime. She has a good J___b and is studying to be an accountant, plus she is buying her own flat.

I feel that we brought them up the same, but my son has always been shall we say 'a little devil'. But if I had done the test when he was 12 then the score would probably have been around 59 for him. But when he hit 13, he was misbehaving at school, then he started running off over night and we wouldn't know where he was. So gradually things started to spiral out of control with him. He smashed my husband’s car window, and at the beginning of this year, he smashed up his bedroom badly and part of our kitchen, he also went for my husband with a knife, and they have always had a good relationship up to now. The police were called and he ended up going to court.

Things have settled down again but we do have the Youth Justice Services involved with C___ and we have been to parent groups for help and support with him.

We have never indulged him with material things in the past, and I never ever imagined him coming home whenever he wanted, J___, my daughter used to be in at 10.30 p.m. But because we found with him, if we had said to him be home at that time, he would just have not come home, consequently we found by letting him stay out later, he did at least come home.

He feels that he doesn't want to be controlled. We don't want out home smashed up again, so he comes and goes as he wants, but when he was younger he never had this freedom. He drinks, takes drugs (ecstasy) when he goes out partying.

In one of the chapters on self reliance, you mention him earning his money, which I agree with. A few months ago he was saying he can't wait to hit 16, then he could get a weekend J___b, he's still a student at the moment. Now, he's found he can make more money by committing crime. So now he won't work, and if he wants to go ice skating for example, he doesn't ask for money, but we tend to give him some so that he's not doing any wrong doing. I would like him to stay away from the people he's hanging out with, but I know it's not all down to them. Frankly, I know what my son is like, I told a friend the other day, that if I had had a good son I wouldn't have wanted him hanging around with a boy like him.

But part of me wonders, is there any hope? Is some of it down simply to genetics? His father was a bad sort, been in prison and generally not very nice, taking drugs, committing all sorts of crime. He never saw C___ for a few years as C___ decided at ten he was fed up being let down by him and didn't want to see him. Shortly after this, his dad went to prison. C___ decided to start seeing his dad last year, but they had a big argument and he doesn't want to bother with him now. But my son has the same hot bad temper that his dad has, and more and more I have started noticing that when you look at kids and their parents, genetics of their personalities has a lot to do with it. It scares me at times, because even though he didn't have much to do with his dad, he is so alike, plus that has probably contributed to my feeling scared of my son when he's aggressive, because his dad used that same aggression on me but physically. At least my son has always said that he would never hit a woman.

But I want to know, do you really think when there is hope, my son evens says its his bad blood in him, because his father also told him about my son's uncle, who also is a very bad person, in prison, hitting women etc. My son seems to think that he can't help it now more or less, he doesn't seem to care about anything or anyone. This was a boy who would do charity runs with me, and raise money for third world countries. He would never have sworn at me once, now if he's been drinking, twice he has on the phone been so verbally rude to me, calling me a f...ing c..t

I used to feel resentful, because I used to love being a mum, I was always very involved, on the PTA, taking them out for trips, helping with homework, cooking with them, I even did childminding so I could be around them. I loved it. But he has made me hate it at times now. I remember years ago, a woman saying to me "if I had my time again, I wouldn't have kids." I was so shocked I had never ever had that thought. But now when my son is so horrible to me, or aggressive, or constantly in trouble, he has been to court now 6 times in 5 months, I just think how good my life would have been if I had only had my daughter. It used to make me feel so sad, and I would try and keep that thought in my head, but now I can easily write it. I used to resent him for making me feel that way. Now I am just accepting of the situation.

But that is where your therapy has helped, especially where it mentions that if you accept the situation for what it is you can then start to move forward, which I have done to a certain degree. I have also tried to not take it personally like you say to do and keep my 'poker' face.

Well sorry my email is so long, I just felt I needed to fill you in on a few details, but I would be especially interested to hear your views on the genetic side of things.

With thanks for your help.

S.

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Hi S.,

The exact cause of oppositional defiant behavior (ODB) is not known, but it is believed that a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the condition.

Some studies suggest that defects in or injuries to certain areas of the brain can lead to serious behavioral problems in children. In addition, ODB has been linked to abnormal amounts of special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of ODB, and other mental illnesses. Further, many children and teens with ODB also have other mental illnesses, such as ADHD, learning disorders, depression or an anxiety disorder, which may contribute to their behavior problems.

Factors such as a dysfunctional family life, a family history of mental illnesses and/or substance abuse and inconsistent discipline by parents may contribute to the development of behavior disorders.

Many children and teens with ODB have close family members with mental illnesses, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. This suggests that a vulnerability to develop ODB may be inherited.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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