Are Tantrums a Sign of Mental Health Problems?

I read a study this morning that has me feeling a little panicked concerned. In a nutshell, the findings indicate that a temper tantrum from time to time isn’t anything to worry about, but daily tantrums may signal behavioral issues.

My 2-year-old has little fits all the time at home–although never at school (mysteriously? magically?)–so does this mean we’re doomed during his tween and teen years?

Before I go off the deep end, there are a few things that don’t apply to my situation. Parents of 2-year-olds weren’t part of the survey (only parents with children ages 3 to 5 were included). And researchers don’t define what they mean by tantrum, or, if they do, it’s not mentioned in this report.

Is a tantrum a full-blown meltdown where the kid is on the floor screaming? If so, we’re in the clear. Or is it a kid stomping his little feet and whining for a few seconds while he’s waiting for us to refill his sippy cup or hand over the remote? If that’s the case, we’re in trouble.


Photo: Child crying via Irina Rogova/

4 thoughts on “Are Tantrums a Sign of Mental Health Problems?

  1. That really is food for thought. I have wondered at times if we were in for some sort of trouble due to the fact that our 6 year old son seems to have meltdowns the minute he is the slightest bit hungry or is told it is bed time.

    Like your son, he is an angel at school, imagine that. I find myself asking where I went wrong. I think peer pressure has a bigger influence than I though. Good for me now, not so good for me once he reaches his teen years.


  2. I don’t know, I guess I’m doomed because my 5 year old cries over everything. I have wondered that before. I have had many people tell me that kids throw tantrums because their parents aren’t hard enough on them.

  3. I read a similar summary of the report too, and there seems to be a difference between an angry response to a disappointing situation and a tantrum. I didn’t find a good definition of the tantrum criteria, and I expect that it would be illuminating (not to mention a relief).

  4. From our experience they definitely were. Tantrums may seem to be out of the blue (and they may well just be that) but your child could be trying to tell you something. In our case it was Sensory Processing Disorder. Frequent tantrums/meltdowns is a common symptom. You can read more about this disorder at

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