Tags: tantrums | mental | health

When to Worry About Temper Tantrums?

Monday, 10 September 2012 11:32 AM

When is a child’s temper tantrum a sign of a deeper mental health problem?
New Northwestern University research aims to give parents and pediatricians a new tool to determine when to worry about a preschooler’s misbehavior. NU social scientists have developed an easy-to-use questionnaire designed to distinguish between a typical toddler tirade and more troubling misbehavior.
The goal is to allow for early identification and treatment of emerging mental health problems, which are keys to preventing young children from declining into chronic mental health problems. The new tool could also prevent mislabeling and overtreatment of typical misbehavior, said researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
One surprising finding of the study: Despite what many people believe, temper tantrums are not frequent among most children. Fewer than 10 percent of young children have a daily tantrum and the pattern is similar for girls and boys of all races and socio-economic backgrounds.
"That's an 'aha!' moment,” said lead researcher Lauren Wakschlag, with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It gives a measurable indicator to tell us when tantrums are frequent enough that a child may be struggling. Perhaps for the first time, we have a tangible way to help parents, doctors and teachers know when the frequency and type of tantrums may be an indication of a deeper problem."
For the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers developed the so-called Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB), to ask parents of nearly 1,500 preschoolers (ages 3 to 5 years) about their children's behavior. The questionnaire asked about the frequency, quality, and severity of temper tantrums and anger management.
"We have defined the small facets of temper tantrums as they are expressed in early childhood. This is key to our ability to tell the difference between a typical temper tantrum and one that is problematic," Wakschlag said.
For example, the researchers noted a typical tantrum may occur when a child is tired or frustrated or at stressful times, such as bedtime or mealtime. An atypical tantrum may occur "out of the blue" or is so intense that a child becomes exhausted. When such atypical tantrums occur regularly, they are a red flag for concern.

© HealthDay

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New research could help determine when a preschooler’s tirades are signs of deeper mental health problems.
Monday, 10 September 2012 11:32 AM
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