'Temper Loss' Model Defines Spectrum of Child Tantrums

Most preschool tantrums constitute normative misbehavior, not clinically concerning behavior

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- The "Temper Loss" model indicates that temper tantrums occur occasionally in most preschoolers, and differentiates between normative misbehavior and less frequent clinically concerning behavior, according to a study published online Aug. 29 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

To document the normative distribution of temper loss in preschoolers, Lauren S. Wakschlag, Ph.D., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed parent-reported patterns of temper loss in a diverse community sample of 1,490 preschoolers. Temper loss, in terms of tantrum features and anger regulation, was assessed using the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior.

The researchers found that, across sociodemographic subgroups, a unidimensional Temper Loss model emerged. Only 8.6 percent of preschoolers had tantrums on a daily basis, while 83.7 percent had tantrums occasionally. Clinically concerning temper loss behaviors occurred less frequently than normative misbehaviors. Frustration in expectable contexts usually accounted for milder behaviors, while clinically concerning problem indicators were unpredictable, prolonged, and/or destructive.

"Parent reports on a developmentally informed questionnaire, administered to a large and diverse sample, distinguished normative and problematic manifestations of preschool temper loss," the authors write. "A developmental, dimensional approach shows promise for elucidating the boundaries between normative early childhood temper loss and emergent psychopathology."

Two authors disclosed receiving royalties from the Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment, which is a published measure.

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