Britishmum-- Very insightful. I am still new to all this, so now that I think about it, maybe, instead of saying: "Tantrums start out because the child is frustrated, etc. and can't express himself," I should qualify that and say that that is *sometimes* why tantrums start.
I guess it seems that tantrums are a result of frustration, to some great degree. But... Now I don't know.
I think back to when I was a kid... A very sensitive child... Now, I didn't tend to tantrum when I couldn't get ice cream, or some such, but I was a perfectionist and got very tantrumy when I didn't get things "right." (Obviously there were other things going on there, but I'll focus on the tantrums themselves right now).
I was also a highly-verbal kid, reading at age 3 1/2, started Kindergarten at 4, etc.
I think that any "fits" I had (and I should say that they were mostly self-flagellating, not yelling at my parents, or anything) were *definitely* the result of frustration (and obviously, lack of acceptance of "failure," too-high expectations, etc).
I think they also had something to do with my not being able to express myself or get out of the tunnel-vision of perfectionism.
I think it *did* have something to do with not being able to express myself, actually. Not in the way or on the level that I *wanted* to express myself, anyway.
Look, I was reading H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" when I was an 8-year-old fourth-grader. But I *still* didn't have the words-- or more accurately, the ability-- to express my frustration in *any* way, really... "productive" or "unproductive"... I knew it was "irrational," I guess, but it had a substance to it... just couldn't get a handle on that substance-- couldn't quite express it-- without crying and screaming sometimes.
And then, screaming and crying was expressing *something* but never really resolving anything. Not that tantrums can't be cathartic, but when they *keep* happening, and don't make you feel better, and... just result in more tantrums, then maybe there *is* something deeper there. (Like there was for me-- the too-high expectations thing was never fundamentally addressed).
Not accusing anyone here of anything, but just thinking... Maybe tantrums are like anything else: developmental, not inherently "bad" or "good." BUT, SOMETIMES, if they are like those I described above, they can be problematic. They might really be "bad," or something to be addressed, if they have certain features or progress along certain lines.
Like depression. Nothing wrong with having bad moods, or occasionally suffering one or more of the symptoms. But when it's a pervasive pattern of 5+ symptoms that interfere with your daily life, last for at least 6 weeks, yadda yadda, then there IS a problem. YKWIM? I mean, I'm sure that's obvious, and I'm just sounding pedantic now.
I still am not 100% Zen about my perfectionist issues, but I didn't even *really* start addressing my extreme frustration/"fits" until I was in therapy at age 16 or so. Not that this applies to every "tantrum" situation, and I agree with a PP that said no human ever really stops tantruming, but...
Still mulling this over...