Tantrums in Young Children and Early Childhood Mental Health in the Digital Age

TTAC hosted a half day presentation facilitated by Dr. Helen Egger. This informative presentation covered several important topics for caregivers and professionals working with young children and introduced attendees to the latest research on tantrums in young children, including:

Seeing the Unseen: Early Childhood Mental Health in a Digital Age

Dr. Egger’s presentation began by addressing common questions that face parents and all who care for young children: when should I worry about young children’s behaviors, emotions, and development? How do we distinguish between normative variation and clinically significant symptoms? How common are mental health disorders in preschool children? How can we identify these challenges and treat them?

When to Worry: Preschool Temper Tantrums and Early Childhood Mental Health

With these questions in mind, Dr. Egger later discussed tantrums in children ages 2-5 years old, drawing from her clinical expertise and data from her longitudinal community studies of preschoolers. In this discussion, attendees learned about:

  • The boundaries and characteristics that differentiate “typical” tantrums and “clinically-significant” tantrums,
  • The association of tantrums with different disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD, and disruptive behavior disorders in the preschool period and in middle childhood,
  • Research translating into practice: how her research helped contribute to a new diagnosis in the DC: 0-5 and her development of a new screening tool for tantrums.

When to Wonder: Digital Innovation in Early Childhood Mental Health

It's shocking that the vast majority of young children with an impairing mental health disorder (>85%) never receive mental health care, and that our current assessment and treatment approaches simply do not scale to reach the needs of young children and their families. However, digital health tools and advanced data science have the potential to broaden our reach, expand our understanding, and transform our practice of early childhood mental health. In this final section, Dr. Egger discussed how digital innovation may help us bridge our current knowledge and access gaps in the early childhood mental health field. Dr. Egger shared her experiences as the lead of two national, app-based studies: Autism & Beyond, an Apple Research Kit app, and When to Wonder: Picky Eating, an iOS and Android app. Both apps use innovative approaches to gathering data directly from very young children using audio, video, and developmentally-appropriate active tasks, as well as parent reports, to give parents evidence-based knowledge about their young children, as well as guided advice and resources, in their homes. Dr. Egger also shared a developing resource: an app that focuses on tantrums.

Presenter: Helen Egger, MD Arnold Simon Professor, Chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University Langone Health (NYU LH), and Director of the NYU Langone Child Study Center.