All of us, at some point in our lives, have had the proverbial temper tantrum. Looking back on those days, many of would now say, “Wow, what a little brat I was!” However, in a recent study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, doctors are now realizing that these temper tantrums might be early warning signs of mental illness.
Researchers found that temper tantrums do not occur regularly amongst children as many people think. Roughly 10% of all young children have at least one temper tantrum every day.
In the study, experts sent out surveys called the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB), to over 1,500 families of parents with 3 to 5 year olds attending preschool. This information has made it possible for physicians to determine if a child with normal behavior or a child who produces temper tantrums is at risk for mental illness later in life. Research in this area will help pediatricians, mental health professionals, and parents find the help their children will need to overcome their problems.
Parents involved in the study were asked to monitor their children’s behavior for some time after they had turned in the survey.
Lauren Wakschlaga, professor and vice chair of the department of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and head researcher of the study stated, “That’s an ‘aha’ moment. 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. The definition of ‘often’ may vary substantially for younger and older children and depend on family stress levels and other mitigating factors.
“Since most preschool children tantrum, these vague criteria make it exceptionally difficult for providers to determine when behavior is of clinical significance in early childhood. There’s been a real danger of preschool children with normal misbehavior being mislabeled and over-treated with medication. On the other hand, pediatricians are hampered by the lack of standardized methods for determining when misbehavior reflects deeper problems and so may miss behaviors that are concerning. This is why it’s so crucial to have tools that precisely identify when worry is warranted in this age group.”
The questionnaire is now being given to more families with preschoolers with the hope that it will help them realize the severity of their children’s temper tantrums and the problems these children might face in the future.
As a child I had many tantrums, and was sent to countless doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. They determined that I was an “angry” child and needed medication. What they determined was very true; I was an angry child, and today do deal with mental health issues. I think this study would have helped the professionals dealing with my issues to understand me a little bit better and what was really going on in my life.
Hopefully this survey and concluding research can help children deal with the problems they might face later on.
“Temper Tantrums – Should Parents Be Concerned?” MedicalNewsToday. MediLexicon International Ltd. 1 Sep. 2012. Web. 4 Sep. 2012.
By Matthew B.
Filed under: Mental Illness · Tags: behavioral problems, children, Lauren Wakschlaga, MAP-DB, mental health, mental illness, Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tantrums, temper tantrums