The theory behind toddlers’ bad behavior has long been that they’re acting up because they’re angry or frustrated and haven’t yet developed the self-control or language necessary to deal with that anger in a more civilized manner. But a child development researcher (University of Santa Cruz) published a study that proposed an alternative explanation.
Much of the time, toddlers act like tiny terrors for absolutely no good reason. Researcher Audun Dahl observed about two dozen children in their own homes at three separate times — when the child was 14 months, then 19 months, and then 2 years old — for two and a half hours at a time. About half of the time a child intentionally harmed someone — usually a parent, though siblings and pets were also in the line of fire — there appeared to be no provocation. In about 43 percent of the interactions Dahl observed, there did appear to be a reason for their bad behavior and the rest of the time the action seemed more like an accident.