Temper tantrums are unpleasant and disruptive behaviors or emotional outbursts. They often occur in response to unmet needs or desires. Tantrums are more likely to occur in younger children or anyone else who cannot express their needs or control their emotions when they are frustrated.
Temper tantrums or "acting-out" behaviors are natural during early childhood development. Children have a normal and natural tendency to assert their independence as they learn they are separate beings from their parents.
This desire for control often shows up as saying "no" often and having tantrums. These are worsened by the fact that the child may not have the vocabulary to express his or her feelings.
Tantrums usually begin around age 12 - 18 months. They get worse between 2 and 3 years, then decrease rapidly until age 4. After age 4, they should rarely occur. Being tired, hungry, or sick, can make tantrums worse or more frequent.
Review Date: 05/01/2011
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.