A new study has confirmed what many parents may have deduced themselves – that kids’ tantrums are linked to their language development.
The talk-tantrum connection
Researchers found that babies as young as twelve months of age displayed “problematic” behaviour which was associated with delayed vocabulary.
“A new, 2,000-participant study from Northwestern University found that toddlers with fewer spoken words have more frequent and severe temper tantrums than their peers with typical language skills,” Science Daily reports.
In fact, late talkers exhibited almost double the rate of severe tantrums than kids with more typical language development.
How did the researchers determine what a ‘later talker’ is? They drew a line that said kids who have fewer than 50 words in their vocabulary or who aren’t putting words together by age two are ‘late’.
And how did they determine what a ‘severe tantrum’ is? A severe tantrum involved behaviours such as breath holding, kicking or hitting.
The study also highlighted the link between late-talking and problems further down the line. Both tantrums and language delays are risk factors for later language and learning disorders.
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When to worry
Elizabeth Norton is the co-principal investigator and an assistant professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She said that tantrums can provide clues that help parents safeguard their child’s health and wellbeing later in life.
“We totally expect toddlers to have temper tantrums if they’re tired or frustrated, and most parents know a tantrum when they see it,” Professor Norton said.
“But not many parents know that certain kinds of frequent or severe tantrums can indicate risk for later mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression ADHD and behaviour problems.”
The researchers say there’s no need to freak out about the odd garden variety severe tantrum or if their child is acquiring words a little slowly.
“Parents should not overreact just because the child next door has more words or because their child had a day from ‘The Wild Things’ with many out-of-control tantrums,” co-principal investigator Lauren Wakschlag, professor and vice-chair in the department of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said.
“The key reliable indicators of concern in both these domains is a persistent pattern of problems and/or delays. When these go hand in hand, they exacerbate each other and increase risk, partly because these problems interfere with healthy interactions with those around them.”
The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, in case you fancy a read.