Excessive Tantrums: A sign of
serious mental health problems?
Are serious mental health
problems associated with excessive tantrums?
An article at Science Daily
(December 13, 2007) stated excessive children's tantrums among preschoolers may
be a sign of serious mental or behavioral problems, according to researchers at
Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Although it
is common for children to have tantrums, it is believed that when they are
self-destructive, violent, frequent or go on for too long, they may indicate the
presence of a possible psychiatric illness.
In the research, normal
children were compared with those diagnosed with disruptive disorders,
depression, attention deficit hyperactivity and other disorders. Normal children
also have temper tantrums, but are not usually aggressive, and are usually of a
shorter duration than those of their peers who are depressed or experiencing
Andrew C. Belden, Ph.D., a
postdoctoral researcher stated "It’s clearly normal for young children to have
occasional tantrums.” "Healthy children may even display extreme behaviors if
they’re very tired, sick or hungry. But if a child is regularly engaging in
specific types of tantrum behaviors, it may be a problem."
The medical school research was
based upon 270 children between the ages of three and six years old.
Information was gathered from their parents and they were divided into four
groups according to psychiatric symptoms: no psychiatric diagnoses, major
depressive disorder, disruptive disorder, or depression and disruptive
disorder. These children were all part of a large study funded by the National
Institute of Mental Health.
Joan L. Luby M.D., associate
professor of child psychiatry and director of the Early Emotional Development
Program at the School of Medicine stated that "We've been following these
children for several years. It's important to find age-specific ways to
diagnose depression and other problems in young children because it can be
difficult to get very young children to tell you about their feelings. We
successfully used narrative and observation techniques, but characteristics of
tantrums when present might be another helpful tool."
Researchers have found five
types of children's tantrums behavior that appear to be connected with
depression or diagnosable disruptive disorders.
Excessive Tantrums: A sign of serious mental health problems
- Page #2
Information adapted from a
report titled Excessive
Tantrums In Preschoolers May Indicate Serious Mental Health Problems.
Additional information and
Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate (Health
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