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Tantrums: A sign of


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Tantrums: A sign of


serious mental


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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 disruptive disorders. 

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.

Also, See 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. ScienceDaily (December 19, 2007)

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate (Health Psychology  

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