Temper tantrums in young children: 1. Behavioral composition

Michael Potegal, Richard J. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although tantrums are among the most common behavioral problems of young children and may predict future antisocial behavior, little is known about them. To develop a model of this important phenomenon of early childhood, behaviors reported in parental narratives of the tantrums of 335 children aged 18 to 60 months were encoded as present or absent in consecutive 30-second periods. Principal Component (PC) analysis identified Anger and Distress as major, independent emotional and behavioral tantrum constituents. Anger-related behaviors formed PCs at three levels of intensity. High-intensity anger decreased with age, and low-intensity anger increased. Distress, the fourth PC, consisted of whining, crying, and comfort-seeking. Coping Style, the fifth PC, had high but opposite loadings on dropping down and running away, possibly reflecting the tendency to either "submit" or "escape." Model validity was indicated by significant correlations of the PCs with tantrum variables that were, by design, not included in the PC analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-147
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Crying
  • Distress
  • Emotion

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