The terrible twos: How children cope with frustration and tantrums and the effect of maternal and paternal behaviors
Experimental Frustration Procedures with 158 children (15–39 months) of two-parent families were conducted, with each parent separately involved. We examined diverse characteristics of children's frustration and focused on specific behaviors of how children coped and parents supported them. In addition, external observers measured child attachment security (via Attachment Q Sort) toward the mother and the father during two home visits. Children with high attachment security became frustrated later and for a shorter time, and fathers, as compared to mothers, relieved these frustration patterns and reduced them. Although 22.2% children exhibited intense frustration responses up to tantrums, levels remained unaffected by child gender, but decreased with child age. Time-lag analyses revealed that children's self-comforting behaviors reduced frustration responses only by around 20%, but self-distracting (in younger children) and pretend-playing (in older children) by around 50% and 70%. Of the parent behaviors, demonstrating reduced children's frustration by up to 40% whereas distracting and reframing by around 60% (mothers) and 80% (fathers). In general, mothers tended to protect the child from distress, whereas fathers assisted the child in coping with frustration. However, if mothers soothed and fathers encouraged, children's frustration intensified.
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