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Baby Wellness: Tantrums

Most children pitch fits every once in a while, but how can new parents tell when the upset is more than just a tantrum?

While little research has been done on tantrums, Washington University recently conducted a study of children aged 3-to-6 years old that found five red flags that may prove a child's fit is indicative of a psychiatric disorder. A WebMD article said:

"Essentially, we found five tantrum styles. They were strongly associated with specific diagnoses," Belden says. "No one I have met can look at a tantrum and give a diagnosis, but these are definitely red flags worth looking into in terms of getting a mental health referral from a pediatrician."

While many children exhibit some of the following warning signs, the constant occurrence of these indicators is what proves worrisome.

  • Aggression toward caregivers and objects.
  • Injuring themselves.
  • Frequency — 10 to 20 tantrums a month or five a day on multiple days.
  • Tantrums that last more than 25 minutes.
  • Not able to calm down after fit.


Join The Conversation
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I caution anyone against self diagnosing a child, please get a real physicians diagnosis before freaking out. On that note, i think that Physicians need to give more parents direction, even parenting classes before ever putting thier kid on meds, its easier to drug them these days than to take the time to figure out whats "really" wrong. I know children have ADD and ADHD and ODD, but there are also millions of kids with just simple behavioral issues and the parents arent told how to take care of that. I know this, i work at a "special needs" clinic and see children who are obviously suffering from one thing and than diagnosed with another.
bastille_75 bastille_75 9 years
Sorry lickety split - As I mentioned i'm not an expert - i'm not even a parent!!!!!! I just read this article and the post and thought that they had sounded interesting and somewhat misleading to imply that you can diagnose pdd with picking 3 out of 5 behavioral pattern that could be attributable to a lot of things as hiedi pointed out, such just the nature of being a child. Obviously you are quite the font of knowledge on this topic and that is great - I truly believe that parents should research everything possible on a topic that their children are diagnosed with and just leave to the 'experts' - I wish a lot more parents did make an effort to arm themselves with knowledge on their children's disorders - which is why i think Jenny McCarthy's stance on autism is admirable and if nothing else great for bringing this topic to a wider audience (can you get better PR then Oprah?) AS for my post being dangerous I seriously doubt anyone would rely on a post that starts out with a disclaimer - however to clarify anything in my post that may have been misleading, while researching this topic sua sponte I found this very helpful and useful website: - with the following article. Happy Holidays - Cheers :-) Asperger's Syndrome Signs and Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis Physician developed and monitored. Physician Advisor List Original source: Original Date of Publication: 06 Jul 2007 Join Our Asperger's Syndrome Forum Signs and Symptoms Children can begin to show signs of Asperger's syndrome by the age of 3. However, because most children with AS are of average or above average intelligence, it may not be noticed until later. When a child begins to develop socially and is placed in a school or playgroup setting, the symptoms of the disorder may become more apparent. In some cases, AS is not diagnosed until adolescence (especially in girls). Above average memory skills Average or above average vocabulary skills Awkward, repetitive gestures, body postures or facial expressions Below average handwriting Difficulty understanding their feelings Extreme difficulty with peer relationships and social situations Inability to be empathetic Inability to read non-verbal social cues and other people's feelings Inability to sense other people's needs for personal space Late development of motor skills or a lack of physical coordination Obsessive interest in one topic which they may talk about excessively Strong attachment to routine Strong aversion to change or spontaneity Unusual sensitivity to sound, light, or touch Unusual speech patterns with regard to tone, pitch, or accents Children who have Asperger's syndrome may show any or all of these symptoms to various degrees. However, all children with the disorder generally have particular difficulty with social relationships. Complications Children who have mild symptoms of Asperger's syndrome may simply be labeled as eccentric and not receive appropriate care and attention. It is also common for children with the disorder to become targets of teasing, ridicule, harassment, or bullying. Because of this, children with AS are at increased risk for developing depression and other mental illnesses. Diagnosis Parents who suspect their child may have Asperger's syndrome, should talk with his or her pediatrician about their observations and concerns. To rule out other conditions that may be causing the child's symptoms, the health care provider will perform a complete physical examination and may perform x-rays and blood tests. If no physical cause for the child's symptoms is found, he or she may be referred to a health professional who specializes in developmental disorders in children. A thorough diagnosis and evaluation are important for determining the most effective treatments for the child. Diagnosis of AS can be performed by one or more of the following health care professionals: Child/adolescent psychiatrist Child/adolescent psychologist Developmental pediatrician Pediatric neurologist Diagnosis of the conditions involves taking a complete medical history of the child, usually based on the observations and recollections of the parents and other family members. Input from other caregivers or teachers who have had contact with the child are also helpful. In addition to a medical history, a communication assessment may be performed. This test is used to gather information about the child's communication skills, including the following: Conversation skills (e.g., turn-taking, sensitivity to cues, ability to follow typical rules of conversation) Formal language (e.g., vocabulary, sentence structure, comprehension) Non-literal language (e.g., humor, irony) Non-verbal communication (e.g., gestures, glances) Speech (e.g., clarity, volume, pitch) In children who have Asperger's syndrome, formal language often is an area of strength, and other forms of communication are usually areas of difficulty.
hiedi hiedi 9 years
I actually really enjoyed Jenny McCarthy's book. I liked that it was hopeful, as well as helpful. And I disagree that these symptoms are specifically talking about autism. These could be a number of different disorders. And it seems very vague to me. Especially the number of fits. My 4 year old throws a tantrum probably everyday when it's nap time, or sometimes when she doesn't get something she wants. Multiple times a day she is disciplined for her behavior, to no avail. But she is most definitely NOT on the spectrum. She has the emotional/social skills of a 6 year old, and is vary advanced in most areas. Basically, sometimes, she just acts like a brat. Most kids do. It's part of being a kid.
bibiruby82 bibiruby82 9 years
I believe it's ASPERGER'S.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
well i am an expert on this topic since my oldest daughter has autism-pdd/nos. and i have been researching it and advocating for children on the autism spectrum for 7 years. the "very specific" set of "signs/standards" (where did you get that term?) also known as a check list, would include inappropriate behaviors such as self injurious behaviors and an inability to calm themself down. 'most drs will not even attempt to diagnose asbergers until the child is at least 12" WRONG. your post is so full of misinformation as to be dangerous and i am reporting it as such. your right; you aren't an expert so please do not post "information" that might prevent another parent from getting their child a diagnosis. one last point; jenny mcarthy's book is not great. she has no idea what autism's effect on her child will be since her child isn't even in school yet and he is having seizures which can reverse all progress. the bools only real value is in increasing awareness on autism in the community.
bastille_75 bastille_75 9 years
Once again I am not an expert on this *topic, but the research that I have done on autism, states that this disorder has a very specific set of 'signs/standards' such as speech problems, not making eye contact, and hitting or banging oneself against or with solid surfaces plus lack of emotional or emotional attachment to name a few (the list is quite long), not acting out of anger/spite/crankiness, etc. Therefore, the fact that I child is exhibiting signs of aggression via temper tantrums only goes to show that the child while probably does not have Autism or pdd may just have discipline issues that should be nipped in-the-bud- ASAP. (which is why I was asking for advice on my little beloved one who is normally very affectionate, smiley and very cuddly - but when he cannot have what he wants - usually some grown-up electronic device or breakable he will look you in the eye and start his tantrum - this is very, very, different from pdd) I agree with you annebreal, autism is very difficult to diagnosis and asbergers is even more difficult (which are pdds) - most drs will not even attempt to diagnose asbergers until the child is at least 12. **Below is an informative website that talks about both these disorders, if anyone is concerned about their child. Wikipedia also does a good job describing these disorders!! Also, Jenny McCarthy has written a great book on this subject - I highly recommend it anyone that is interested!!!! Plus, there's another book that is fictional, but touches in this topic titled "Knitting under the Influence" that is informative and a fun read!!! I hope this post was somewhat informative, and not meant to disregard what others had said - it was just to add a lawyer to this very interesting conversation/ topic. * A friends 11yr-old was diagnosed w/pdd (asbergers) **
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
lol, pdd IS autism, not "a pdd". dsm "is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States" i think that makes it a mental health disorder, don't you? and btw, odd is also on the autism spectrum. and if your child has these symptoms you need to be worried and get i diagnosis so you qualify for services that can effectively treat the condition.
annebreal annebreal 9 years
Nope. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, not a mental health disorder, and those aren't the hallmarks of it. If I were to take a guess, I'd say they might mean things like oppositional defiance disorder. I think it's a good post, I'm not naysaying, I'm just a little surprised at WebMD for being so vague, because when you're talking about stuff like this you don't want to give parents something to worry about without giving them significant information. Plus, I'm genuinely interested in the study from an academic standpoint and there's not a lot to go off of. Maybe the fully study is published in a journal someplace.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
i'll be more specific for you; those are signs of autism.
bastille_75 bastille_75 9 years
On the plus side - my little loved one only exhibited on of the five key signs - he has quite a few a month/week. Does anyone have any advice on how to put a stop to these antics? So far, time out does not work nor does ignoring it. So, far the only thing that works is the threat of nap time, but since he is a good napper (sp?is that a verb?) we do not want the threat of nap time to be perceived as punishment. This is quite a conundrum for us - any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
annebreal annebreal 9 years
I love WebMD, and I don't really understand what this article is trying to do...I mean, what did they find? "Mental health disorders" can mean a broad range of things. I agree that the red flags they said probably do mark maladaptive behavior but I wish they had been more specific. Also, a caution to people like me who read anything about mental health and immediately start diagnosing themselves or loved ones, be cautious when going into a GP for a mental health referral...once a kid is labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, game over, that label is sticking.
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