The Terrible Twos Are Actually the Worst

Toddlers are brats. It’s science

Angry baby
Courtesy of Flickr user Andy Matthews

Though precious, little kids are also kind of annoying: they punch, they scream, they throw things, they bully each other, and they lay down on the floor in a piercing tantrum for what seems like, really, no reason at all. If you or someone you know is struggling with a kid in the midst of the so-called “terrible twos,” we have some good news for you: it gets better. (Usually).

According to David Dobbs writing for the New York Times, two year-olds are actually, scientifically, the worst.

Investigating how acts of violence change throughout life, says Dobbs, “The rate of violence peaks at 24 months, declines steadily through adolescence and plunges in early adulthood.”

“With adolescents, physically aggressive acts can be counted in incidents per month; with toddlers, he said, “you count the number per hour.”

… These findings have been replicated in multiple large studies by several researchers on several continents.

“It’s highly reliable,” said Brad J. Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University and an expert on child violence, who noted that toddlers use physical aggression even more than people in violent youth gangs do. “Thank God toddlers don’t carry weapons.””

The realization that physical violence tends to peak in early life, says Dobbs, is changing scientists' understanding of how violent criminals come to be. Rather than becoming violent, he says, we all start off that way. Most of us learn to control our violence and negotiate by different means, but some do not.

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