How Serious Are Your Child’s Tantrums

Is your child misbehaving too often and is it more than just temper tantrums? Latest research on temper tantrums in children shows that frequent tantrums can indicate other problems in the child. The recent findings on this study were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Research by scientists at the Northwestern University has led to the development of a tool that helps parents determine the reasons for tantrums in a child. This tool comes in the form of a questionnaire that requires the parent to answer a few questions regarding the child’s misbehavior patterns from his early childhood days.

Study on tantrums among preschoolers

The researchers in this study developed the questionnaire by collecting data from a sample size of more than 1500parents with children between the age groups of 3 to 5. The questions were based on the frequency, severity and quality of the child’s behavior in the past month and the methods parents used to manage theseepisodes.

The results from this survey made the researchers rate preschoolers on a scale ranging from typical to atypical behavior. This scale will help timely professional intervention in case of a problem.

The main reason for developing this scale was to identify behavioral defects in children at an early age when it is treatable rather than later when these behaviors have spilled over other aspects of the child’s personality.

The lead researcher of this team Dr. Lauren Wakschlag explains that this is the only tool available for analyzing toddler and preschooler behavior patterns. Until now, tools for analyzing teenagers and older children’s behavior have been developed.

Outcomes of the research

The research disproved a few myths associated with toddler tantrums. Contrary to common beliefs it is found that tantrums in preschoolers are common but not as frequent as reported. Not more than 10% of the children have a tantrum every day, and this is applicable to kids of all origins and backgrounds.

The questionnaire developed by the team is useful in the following ways:
  • Using the data from this questionnaire, child health professionals can determine if the tantrum is a regular one or one that needs medical attention.
  • This new tool is designed to help identify such problems early and administer treatment at earlier stages to prevent progression of the problem into later stages of the child’s life.
  • It also helps prevent the rampant mislabeling of children and over medicating them for their misbehavior.
  • The questionnaire works by establishing a link between the number of tantrums and their type. Thus, it will indicate a single factor to judge the outcome and proceed further.

According to Dr. Wakschlag, the research is still to make clinical correlations with the findings. That is, the points on the scale that correlates with a specific psychological disorder type. The researchers are also trying to map this scale with brain imaging techniques. But meanwhile, the questionnaire will help make timely diagnosis of childhood psychological ailments easier.


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