Temper tantrums are a rite of passage for most toddlers, and although they are a normal phase of development, researchers from Ohio State University think they have pinpointed another potential cause: the bacteria in your child’s gut. After examining the bacterial composition in the stool of children between 18 and 27 months, researchers found a correlation between certain types and amounts of bacteria and particular behaviors in children, especially male. This gut bacteria has gotten quite bit of press lately as being a potential factor in numerous health issues and diseases, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, allergies, and chronic diseases later in life.

terrible two, tantrum, health, kids health

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In the 77 child study, those children with the most diverse types of gut bacteria also were noted (as per a questionnaire filled out by their parents) to exhibit behaviors related with positive mood, curiosity, sociability and impulsivity. Although the correlation between gut bacteria and temperament was stronger in boys, the study also reported that for girls, behaviors like self-restraint, cuddliness and focused attention were associated with a lower diversity of gut bacteria. The researchers believe that intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones in the body; a child’s temperament (such as her propensity to throw spectacular tantrums in the most inconvenient of places), may reflect this interaction. Since these stress hormones have also been linked to chronic diseases, scientists are hoping to better understand the interaction in hopes of preventing health issues later in life, long after memories of the terrible twos have faded. The study was published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

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