Characteristics of temper tantrums in preschoolers with disruptive behavior in a clinical setting

Shelly S. Eisbach, Fallon Cluxton-Keller, Joyce Harrison, Jenna R. Krall, Matthew Hayat, Deborah Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to describe clinician-observed, naturally occurring temper tantrums in preschoolers ages 2 to 5.5 diagnosed with severe behavior problems. Participants were 24 mother-child dyads enrolled in an intensive outpatient treatment program. Clinicians timed and observed 330 temper tantrums, rated their intensity, and recorded occurrence of 16 behaviors, tantrum precipitants, and interventions; parents completed the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist pre- and posttreatment. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Pearson chi square, paired t tests, and generalized linear modeling. Mean tantrum duration was 3.4 minutes (range = 0.2 to 26.5 minutes); most tantrums were low in intensity. Noncompliance precipitated 52% of tantrums. Aggressive behaviors were more likely to occur early in tantrums, with distress behaviors occurring later. Parent surveys indicated perceptions of behavioral improvement but no change in tantrum behavior. Study findings corroborate those of previous studies using retrospective parent reports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 21 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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