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Toddlers With Angry Parents May Have More Temper Tantrums

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Toddlers are more likely to become easily upset and act out if their parents anger quickly and overreact to their children's behavior, according to a new study involving adopted youngsters.

Researchers looked at the behavior of adopted children aged 9 months, 18 months and 27 months and their adoptive parents in 361 families in 10 states. Researchers also analyzed genetic data from the children and their birth parents.

The study found that adoptive parents who had a tendency to overreact were quick to anger when toddlers made mistakes or tested age-appropriate limits. The children of these parents acted out or had more temper tantrums than normal for their age.

Children who had the greatest increases in these types of negative emotions as they grew from infants to toddlers (from 9 months to 27 months of age) also had the highest levels of problem behaviors at 24 months. This suggests that negative emotions may have their own development process that impacts children's later behaviors, according to lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University, and her colleagues.

They also found that genetics plays a role, particularly in children who inherited a genetic risk of negative emotionality from their birth mothers but were raised in a low-stress or less reactive family environment.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Development and Psychopathology, help improve understanding of the complex link between genetics and home environment, according to the researchers.

"Parents' ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident and not overreact is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior," Lipscomb said in a university news release. "You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about toddler growth and development.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Oregon State University, news release, Feb. 20, 2012

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