The Relationship between Early Language and Temper Tantrums

Young children with good language skills may avoid tantrums and distress by using language to seek a parent's support or distract themselves.

Children with good language skills at age two were less likely to have temper tantrums and other outbursts at age four according to recent research. Researchers found that there is a strong connection between a child’s ability to manage frustration and early language skills.

 In research settings likely to produce frustration and anger, children with better developed language coped by using language to seek their mother's support and to occupy themselves during a potentially frustrating wait.

The connection between language and emotional regulation in the early years has been found in other research, but this is the first time the findings have been confirmed in a longitudinal study. By examining the children over a 30 month period researchers at Penn State and the University of Delaware showed that behavior at age 2 (good language skills) can predict behavior at age 4 (better emotional regulation).

 The study appears in the journal Child Development.

 Roben, C. K. P., Cole, P. M. and Armstrong, L. M. (2012), Longitudinal Relations Among Language Skills, Anger Expression, and Regulatory Strategies in Early Childhood. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12027