Toddlers with more developed language skills are better able to manage frustration and less likely to express anger by the time they're in preschool. That's the conclusion of a new longitudinal study from researchers that appears in the journal Child Development.
"This is the first longitudinal evidence of early language abilities predicting later aspects of anger regulation," according to Pamela M. Cole, liberal arts research professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, who was the principal investigator of the study.
Angry outbursts such as temper tantrums are common among toddlers, but by the time children enter school, they're expected to have more self-control. To help them acquire this skill, they're taught to use language skills like "using your words." This study sought to determine whether developing language skills relates to developing anger control. Does developing language ability reduce anger between ages 2 and 4?
Researchers looked at 120 predominantly White children from families above poverty but below middle income from the time they were 18 months to 48 months. Through home and lab visits, they measured children's language and their ability to cope with tasks that might elicit frustration.
In one lab-based task, children were asked to wait 8 minutes before opening a gift while their mothers finished "work" (a series of questions about how the child usually coped with waiting).