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The Role of Genes in Temper Tantrums

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If you have ever had to endure a temper tantrum of a child, then you may actually be able to blame your spouse and be supported by science.

Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) Gene

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Research published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience shows that the emotional control that a child may lack when they throw a temper tantrum may be caused by an overactive or underactive monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in their bodies. It is also why you may find that it is much easier for one child in the family to behave than another at the same age.

Genetic Effects on the Amygdala

Genetic Effects on the Amygdala

The size of the amygdala located anterior to the hippocampus in the medial temporal lobe of the brain may be controlled by the MAOA gene. While more study still needs to be done, when this area becomes overactive, it appears that the person becomes very fearful.

Then, they may become overly aroused resulting in their inability to control their temper as easily as other individuals. Researchers say that when this part of the brain malfunctions, then things that are learned in emotionally stimulating situations actually become rewarding. Therefore, they throw temper tantrums because they want to get aroused even if they cannot express those thoughts yet.

Genetic Effects on the Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex

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Scientists also believe that the MAOA gene is responsible for the function of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for choosing the behavior most likely to get the reward desired. When it malfunctions, then the person throwing the temper tantrum has a hard time deciding which activity will net them with the desired reward. The frustration causes the person to become extremely agitated.

The Role of the Caregiver

The Role of the Caregiver

Despite the fact that temper tantrums may have a genetic basis, the caregiver can still do some things to help a child stop having a temper tantrum. Making sure that the child is well rested may help to lessen the number of temper tantrums as the brain has a hard time working when it is overly tired. Controlling the environment so that the child has plenty of appropriate choices can help.

Since the child’s amygdala may be getting aroused if you make negative faces or start yelling, make sure that you stay quiet and neutral. A malfunctioning dorsal anterior cingulate cortex makes it hard for the child to decide which behavior is going to be rewarded, so make sure that you reward no behavior until the temper tantrum is over.

The Importance of Genetic Testing

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While the caregiver plays an important role in many temper tantrums, a child who has an MAOA gene that does not function properly may have a harder time than most controlling their behavior. If you find that rewarding your child for making good decisions and punishing them for temper tantrums seems to have no effects, then it may be time for CRI genetics testing.

The results let you have a clear picture of what is causing the temper tantrums. Then, you can work with mental health specialists to find solutions before you want to throw your own temper tantrum.

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