Young children's post tantrum affiliation with their parents

M. Potegal, R. J. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In our database of 331 parental narratives of tantrums had by children 18-60 months old, 29% of the tantrums were followed by child-initiated affiliation with parents. Four variables increased the probability of children's post tantrum affiliation (PTA): age, prolonged screaming, physiological stress, and parent-initiated separation from the child during the tantrum. The age effect may be due to increasing post tantrum persistence of negative affect, to the emergence of shame, guilt, and embarrassment over this developmental period, and/or to increasing cognitive ability, empathic capacity, or socialization. Screaming, which may be analogous to the defensive vocalizations of nonhuman primates, increases PTA when prolonged for 6 min or more. Physiological stress (indicated by autonomic activation or respiratory distress) appears linked to prolonged screaming and may mediate its effects by increasing the child's dysphoria and need for consolation. Separation (parents' departure from the scene of the tantrum or their imposition of a time out) also appears linked to prolonged screaming and may reflect parents' response to an aversive auditory stimulus. There was no evidence that PTA was associated with the presence or degree of physically expressed anger in the tantrum. PTA may be associated with distress during the tantrum. The post conflict reconciliation which occurs in several domains of human social life may be first experienced by children in the aftermath of their tantrums. Aggr. Behav. 23:329-341, 1997.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-341
Number of pages13
JournalAggressive Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Apology
  • Distress
  • Reconciliation
  • Screaming
  • Time-out
  • Vocalization


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