Frequent tantrums in children are not just a nuisance for others. It could harm their own future. They could be running the risk of of depression or disruptive disorders, according to new research.
Tantrums were often the sign of a sick, hungry or overstimulated child, according to scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
For most parents, tantrums were a normal part of development and should be viewed as a teaching opportunity.
But parents of children who hurt themselves or others and those who cannot calm themselves without help should seek medical help. Healthy children tended to have less aggressive, and generally shorter tantrums.
"I think parents to some degree should expect their children to have tantrums," said Dr Andy Belden, whose study appeared in the Journal of Pediatrics.
"If they are having extreme tantrums consistently. 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 pediatrician."
His team analysed parent reports of tantrum behaviors in 279 children aged 3 to 6.
They compared tantrums in healthy children with those in children previously diagnosed with depression or some type of disruptive disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.
From their observations, Belden's team devised five high-risk tantrum styles: Tantrums marked by self injury; tantrums marked by violence to others or objects; tantrums in which children cannot calm themselves without help; tantrums lasting more than 25 minutes; and tantrums occurring more than five times a day, or between 10 and 20 times a month.
Of those, Dr Belden said tantrums in which children harm themselves were most often associated with depression and should be considered very serious.