The behavioral organization, temporal characteristics, and diagnostic concomitants of rage outbursts in child psychiatric inpatients

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Apr;11(2):127-33. doi: 10.1007/s11920-009-0020-2.


Angry outbursts, sometimes called rages, are a major impetus for the psychiatric hospitalization of children. In hospitals, such outbursts are a management problem and a diagnostic puzzle. Among 130 4- to 12-year-olds successively admitted to a child psychiatry unit, those having in-hospital outbursts were likely to be younger, have been in special education, have had a preadmission history of outbursts, and to have a longer hospital stay. Three subsets of behaviors, coded as they occurred in 109 outbursts, expressed increasing levels of anger; two other subsets expressed increasing levels of distress. Factor structure, temporal organization, and age trends indicated that outbursts are exacerbations of ordinary childhood tantrums. Diagnostically, children with outbursts were more likely to have language difficulty and a trend toward attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Outbursts of children with anxiety diagnoses showed significantly more distress relative to anger. Outbursts were not especially associated with our small sample of bipolar diagnoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / diagnosis
  • Psychomotor Agitation / epidemiology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Rage*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors