Internalizing and externalizing symptoms among children with oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder or depression

Daria Weitmann, Pace University


Many children who have an externalizing disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder (CD) usually have another primary diagnosis. It is very common for the second diagnosis to be an internalizing disorder, such as depression or anxiety. The purpose of this study was to examine the severity of both internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children with a diagnosis of ODD and/or CD or a single diagnosis of depression, compared to those who have a comorbid diagnosis of ODD and/or CD with depression. Children ages 7--14 years of age at a residential treatment center participated in this study. Archival data was examined to determine the psychiatric diagnoses of the youth. The Beck Youth Inventories (BYI) was then administered to 60 participants selected for the study. The BYI consists of five inventories: Self-Concept, Anxiety, Depression, Anger and Disruptive Behavior. Results indicated that females were found to have significantly lower Self-Concept scores than males. In general, females were found to have significantly higher scores on the Disruptive Behavior and Anger scales than the males. However statistical analysis failed to reveal any significant differences across the remaining scales within the overall sample. Additionally, results did not determine any significant differences between comorbid boys and non-comorbid boys across the five scales. There were also no significant differences between the comorbid girls and non-comorbid girls along the five scales. Furthermore, statistical analysis failed to reveal an interaction effect between gender and group (i.e., comorbid versus non-comorbid). This study aimed to improve the understanding of symptom presentation among children who have comorbid diagnoses of ODD and/or CD with depression in order to guide intervention and treatment. Many children who exhibit externalizing symptoms often suffer from depression or anxiety, however the child's acting out behaviors often overshadows their internalizing symptoms. Consequently, treatment may only focus on the externalizing symptoms and not be attentive to the often underlying depression. Future research should focus on gathering a larger sample size, specifically with respect to girls. In addition, future research may want to include other measures and other reporters, such as parents or staff, in order to account for any possible misinformation reported by the child.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Weitmann, Daria, "Internalizing and externalizing symptoms among children with oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder or depression" (2006). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3222743.



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