Kids who throw extended, hostile or frequent tantrums might be doing more than showing their childish attitude, for a new study has found that such kids might be exhibiting early signs of psychiatric disorder.
A tantrum is an emotional outburst, which can be categorized by an irrational fit of crying, screaming, defiance, and a resistance to every attempt at pacification in which even physical control is lost.
The study, led by Andy Belden, from the Washington University's medical school in St Louis, stated that tantrums are common among young kids and are a sign of hunger, illness or overstimulation.
However, while throwing tantrums the children who harm themselves or others, or kids who cannot calm themselves down, might be diagnosed with depression or disruptive disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.
"I think parents to some degree should expect their children to have tantrums," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the lead author, as saying in the study
"If they are having extreme tantrums consistently [and] if almost every time they are having a tantrum they are hurting themselves or other people, that is a valid reason to go and talk to your paediatrician," Belden added.
In the study, the researchers analysed the tantrums of 279 children aged three to six, as reported by their parents.
The analysis comprised of comparing tantrums of healthy children with those of children who had previously been diagnosed with depression or a disruptive disorder.
Healthy children showed significantly fewer violent, self-harming, destructive and verbally aggressive tantrum behaviours as compared to kids with mood disorder, disruptive disorders or both.
The healthy kids also had less severe and shorter tantrums and required less recovery time than affected children.
The researchers devised five high-risk tantrum styles, which could be associated with the development of psychiatric disorder.
The styles included tantrums marked by: self-injury; violence towards others or objects; an inability to be calmed without help; a duration of more than 25 minutes; and a frequency of more than five times a day, or between 10 and 20 times a month.
Belden said any of these behaviours would imply that doctor should be called and added, behaviour during a tantrum was only an indicator and, did not necessarily prove the existence of a psychiatric disorder.
The study is published in the Journal of Paediatrics.