A new study suggests that toddlers with good language skills are better able to manage anger later in life.
Children with good language skills at age 2 expressed less anger during frustrating situations at age 4 than did those 4-year-olds with less advanced language skills, according to the study's findings.
Children whose language skills developed quickly also expressed less anger at age 4.
The new study followed 120 children from 18 months old until they were 4. Children periodically underwent tests that assessed their language skills and their ability to cope with frustrating tasks. One task asked children to wait for eight minutes before opening a present while their mother finished work.
Two aspects of language appeared to help children rein in their anger. First, more-developed language skills allowed kids to ask for support from their parents during a frustrating situation (for instance, asking the mother whether she was finished with her work). Children also used language to occupy or distract themselves from becoming angry. (One child dealt with the waiting task by counting for a full minute.)
"Better language skills may help children verbalize rather than use emotions to convey needs and use their imaginations to occupy themselves while enduring a frustrating wait," said study researcher Pamela Cole, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University.
The study was recently published in the journal Child Development.