Does your child habitually cry, yell and swing his or her arms and legs viciously? Does he or she bite, hit and/or pinch? If yes, your child may be having yet another temper tantrum. Research suggests temper tantrums in infants may signal early mental health problems.

Mental health experts at Northwestern University created a questionnaire exclusively designed to determine moderate to severe misbehavior among children. This questionnaire will be able to predict and identify mental health problems as well as assist physicians to provide early treatment. Early treatment is essential to ward off chronic mental health problems in the future.   

The Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB) was designed to ask parents nearly 1,500 questions about their child's behavior. The questions include frequency, quality and severity of temper tantrums as well as anger management skills.

The study, led by Lauren Wakschlag, professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern's Feingberg School of Medicine, disproved the myth that temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up. In fact the study states temper tantrums are not as frequent as many are led to believe.  Wakschlag discovered less than 10 percent of children have daily fits. This figure is the same among girls and boys, underprivileged, privileged, Hispanic, white and African-American children.

Researchers were able to measure children along a scale of behavior from typical to atypical. An atypical tantrum may be one that occurs less frequently and unexpectedly, or so intense the child is left exhausted. Typical outbursts may occur during daily routines such as bedtime, dinnertime, when a child is tired or frustrated.

Parents should be concerned when atypical tantrums occur frequently.

Here are a few tips to handle tantrums:

- Ignore the tantrums in order to help your child to understand and learn how to deal with anger/frustration.

- Pay attention to what triggers the tantrums.

- Use timeouts in order to give your child time to calm down

If tantrums continue to persist and are out of control, seek medical intervention.

The study was published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.