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A tantrum (or temper tantrum or tirade or hissy fit) is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, yelling, shrieking, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, violence. Physical control may be lost, the person may be unable to remain still, and even if the "goal" of the person is met he or she may not be calmed. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.
Tantrums are one of the most common forms of problematic behaviour in young children, but tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. For the toddler, tantrums can indeed be considered as normal phenomena, with the tantrum's energy serving as a measure of the strength of character its harnessing may eventually create.
While tantrums may be seen as a predictor of future anti-social behaviour, in another sense they are simply the result of frustration leading to a temporary loss of control, and will normally grow fewer and fewer with patient handling as the child develops.
Selma Fraiberg warned against "too much pressure or forceful methods of control from the outside" in child-rearing as liable to provoke tantrums: "if we turn every instance of pants changing, treasure hunting, napping, puddle wading and garbage distribution into a governmental crisis we can easily bring on fierce defiance, tantrums, and all the fireworks of revolt in the nursery."
In 2011, research found that toddlers use tantrums to express two emotions, anger and fear, simultaneously or in patterns. Such tantrums often have a "pattern and rhythm" to their "vocalizations". Analysis of the patterns can lead to discerning which tantrums are normal and which could be signs of future problems -- "that may be warning signals of an underlying disorder." The study was authored by Michael Potegal, at the University of Minnesota, Pamela G. Whitney at Quinnipiac University, and James A. Green at the University of Connecticut. Potegal was quoted by National Public Radio as saying that "The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible was to get the child past the peaks of anger" and when "the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger ... was to do nothing." The researchers were called "brave scientists" for dealing with their research subjects.
Freud considered that the Wolf Man's development of temper tantrums - as he became "discontented, irritable and violent, took offence on every possible occasion, and then flew into a rage and screamed like a savage" - was connected with his seduction by his sister. He also considered that subsequently "the patient's fits of rage and scenes of fury were put to a new purpose...to force punishments and...satisfy his sense of guilt" - a point he considered educators should bear in mind in general when a child is continually producing tantrums.
Jealousy over the birth of a sibling, and resulting aggression, may also provoke tantrums over minor matters, in the effort to contain the major emotional upset.
Some people who have neurological disorders such as the combination of autism or mental retardation could be more prone to tantrums than others, although anyone experiencing forebrain damage (temporary or permanent) can suffer from tantrums. Anyone may be prone to tantrums once in a while, regardless of gender or age.
Heinz Kohut contended that all children contained a self-centred, grandiose-exhibitionist core, and that tantrums in the face of frustration were the product of narcissistic rages at the blow to the inflated self-image.
Edmund Bergler had already noted in similar fashion that with "a child confronted with some refusal...regardless of its justifications, the refusal automatically provokes fury, since it offends his sense of omnipotence".
William Makepeace Thackeray claimed that in later life "you may tell a Tantrum as far as you can see one, by the distressed and dissatisfied expression of its countenance - 'Tantrumical', if we may term it so".
In the celebrity culture of the 21st century, such Tantrumical characters find their culmination in the form of celebrity tantrums - with celebrities of all ages using temper tantrums as a means to getting their own way.
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