Conflict of interest statement: Lauren Wakschlag, Seung Choi, Heide Hullsiek, James Burns, Kimberly McCarthy, and Ellen Leibenluft report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest. Margaret Briggs-Gowan and Alice Carter receive royalties from the ITSEA (Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment), which is a published measure.
Defining the developmental parameters of temper loss in early childhood: implications for developmental psychopathology
Version of Record online: 29 AUG 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry © 2012 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Special Issue: Mood dysregulation in child and adolescent psychopathology issue
Volume 53, Issue 11, pages 1099–1108, November 2012
How to Cite
Wakschlag, L. S., Choi, S. W., Carter, A. S., Hullsiek, H., Burns, J., McCarthy, K., Leibenluft, E. and Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2012), Defining the developmental parameters of temper loss in early childhood: implications for developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53: 1099–1108. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02595.x
- Issue online: 15 OCT 2012
- Version of Record online: 29 AUG 2012
- Accepted for publication: 22 June 2012
- Developmental psychopathology;
- temper tantrums;
- disruptive behavior;
- preschool psychopathology;
Background: Temper modulation problems are both a hallmark of early childhood and a common mental health concern. Thus, characterizing specific behavioral manifestations of temper loss along a dimension from normative misbehaviors to clinically significant problems is an important step toward identifying clinical thresholds.
Methods: Parent-reported patterns of temper loss were delineated in a diverse community sample of preschoolers (n = 1,490). A developmentally sensitive questionnaire, the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB), was used to assess temper loss in terms of tantrum features and anger regulation. Specific aims were: (a) document the normative distribution of temper loss in preschoolers from normative misbehaviors to clinically concerning temper loss behaviors, and test for sociodemographic differences; (b) use Item Response Theory (IRT) to model a Temper Loss dimension; and (c) examine associations of temper loss and concurrent emotional and behavioral problems.
Results: Across sociodemographic subgroups, a unidimensional Temper Loss model fit the data well. Nearly all (83.7%) preschoolers had tantrums sometimes but only 8.6% had daily tantrums. Normative misbehaviors occurred more frequently than clinically concerning temper loss behaviors. Milder behaviors tended to reflect frustration in expectable contexts, whereas clinically concerning problem indicators were unpredictable, prolonged, and/or destructive. In multivariate models, Temper Loss was associated with emotional and behavioral problems.
Conclusions: Parent reports on a developmentally informed questionnaire, administered to a large and diverse sample, distinguished normative and problematic manifestations of preschool temper loss. A developmental, dimensional approach shows promise for elucidating the boundaries between normative early childhood temper loss and emergent psychopathology.