Your 4-year-old throwing tantrums may be mentally ill

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Washington, Dec 20 (UNI) Most of the parents complain about the temper tantrums in their young children, but very few consider toddler volatility an indication of psychiatric illness.

According to a new study, long, frequent, violent or self-destructive tantrums in preschoolers, might be a sign of serious emotional or behavioural problems.

Researchers compared tantrums in healthy children to those with children diagnosed with attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder.

Healthy children tend to be less aggressive and generally had shorter tantrums than their peers with depression and disruptive disorders.

''Healthy children may display extreme behaviours if they're very tired or sick or hungry. But if a child is regularly engaging in specific types of tantrum behaviours, there may be a problem,'' said child psychiatrist Andrew C Belden.

The study published in the Journal of Pediatrics involved 270 children between 3 and 6 years old.

''We've been following these children for several years,''said lead researcher Joan L Luby of the School of Medicine. Though, it could be difficult to get very young children to tell you about their feelings, but narrative and observational techniques have been successful tools. Characteristics of tantrums when present might be another helpful tool, he explained.

The study found if a toddler directed his aggression towards a caregiver or violently destructive behaviour towards an object such as a toy during most tantrums, parents should be concerned.

Another worrisome behaviour was of toddlers intentionally injuring themselves, including actions such as scratching until the skin bleeds, head-banging or biting themselves.

Other ''red flags'' involved children having more than five tantrums a day for several consecutive days and having very long tantrums.

Finally, if preschoolers were unable to calm themselves following a tantrum, they appear to be at much greater risk of psychiatric problems.


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