Can Yelling at a Child Cause Trauma? New Study Provides Insights

Can Yelling at a Child Cause Trauma? New Study Provides InsightsA recent study has revealed that yelling at children can have equally harmful effects as those from physical and sexual abuse. Scientists from the United Kingdom and North Carolina made this discovery, emphasizing that adults who resort to shouting may inflict emotional scars and potentially lifelong issues for the child.

This research was initiated by the charity Words Matter, a UK-based organization committed to enhancing children’s self-esteem by combating verbal abuse. Researchers from Wingate University in North Carolina and University College London conducted the study. They extensively reviewed 166 previously published studies, resulting in a comprehensive analysis of the detrimental consequences associated with shouting at children.

The authors of the recent paper identified key elements of abuse, including adverse tone, content, and speech volume, and their immediate consequences. From their findings, they advocate for the official recognition of childhood verbal abuse (CVA) as a legitimate form of maltreatment.

Words Have Weight: The Real Impact of Childhood Verbal Abuse

Childhood verbal abuse (CVA) has repercussions that can persist throughout a child’s lifetime. Words Matter founder Jessica Bondy emphasized the profound influence of words, saying that words have significant power and the capacity to either uplift or devastate. She stressed the need to focus on nurturing children rather than undermining them.

The study delved into the consequences of adults – including parents, relatives, teachers, or coaches – shouting at children. It highlighted the long-lasting impact of shouting, such as mental suffering that can lead to depression and anger, outward symptoms such as engaging in criminal activities or substance abuse, and physical health issues like obesity or lung disease. The study notably found that parents, particularly mothers, and teachers were the most common individuals responsible for this childhood verbal abuse.

A Better Way of Defining Childhood Verbal Abuse Needed

Child maltreatment is currently categorized into four distinct types: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. In this categorization, emotional abuse includes verbal abuse, silent treatment, indifference, and letting the child witness domestic violence. Now, the researchers say verbal abuse is a more “overt” kind of maltreatment that deserves particular attention.

This recent study highlights that while the incidence of physical and sexual abuse has decreased, the prevalence of childhood emotional abuse has increased. This trend was noted in 2014 by the World Health Organization and was further substantiated by four additional papers referenced in the new study.

The researchers call for establishing a consistent definition of childhood verbal abuse. Such clarity is crucial to accurately assessing its prevalence and impact, as well as to developing effective intervention strategies. Professor Shanta Dube, the lead author of the study, also emphasized the urgent need to recognize yelling at children as its own form of maltreatment.

Further, the study recommended further research to determine which age groups are most affected by verbal maltreatment. Only then can effective measures be taken to address and alleviate the trauma experienced by these individuals.

How Adults Can Better Communicate With Children

Resources on the Words Matter website encourage adults to refrain from shouting, insults, demeaning remarks, or name-calling when communicating with children. They also advocate for thoughtful communication by thinking before speaking and dedicating time to mend relationships with children after uttering hurtful words.

Similarly, in an interview with CNN, family sciences professor Elizabeth Gershoff emphasized the significance of refraining from criticism when one’s voice is raised.

Gershoff explained that it’s also crucial to take the audience into consideration. Toddlers, for instance, tend to absorb the resentment rather than grasp the actual message behind the yelling. On the other hand, different children may have varying responses to being shouted at.

All grownups occasionally become stressed out and say things unintentionally, according to Bondy. For children to thrive, we must come up with strategies that identify these behaviors and put a stop to adults’ verbal abuse of children.