Neuroscientists from Georgetown University Medical Center used brain scans to study the internal mental workings of toddlers, and see why tantrums happen so frequently. Over 40 adult and child volunteers were scanned to see exactly when the brain moved past the tantrumming stage of development. They found that the key lies within the active parts of the brain, and how well those parts work together.
Parts of the brain that control understanding the wants and needs of others seem to not fully knit together until the teen years. Without this region of the brain being fully active, young children experience the common egocentrism that can lead to tantrums. Toddlers and young children are just not capable of thinking fully about others, which can cause them to act out when they are not getting what they want. Rather than a failure of parenting, these tantrums are a normal part of brain development.
The default-mode network, or DMN, are the five regions of the brain that are most active when a person is at rest. For toddlers, these five regions are not yet fully working together. For young children, aged 6-9 years, some parts of the regions lit up together. However, not until age 13 do the parts fully work together. Younger children, such as toddlers, have even more trouble with these areas coordinating their activity.
‘These results suggest children develop introspection over time as their brains develop,’ said researcher Dr Stuart Washington.
Though tantrums can be extremely embarrassing for parents, understanding that this is a normal phase of brain development can make them easier to deal with. As a toddler ages and grows, their brain will begin to function at a more cohesive level. – Summer, staff writer
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