Parents who yell or swear at their teenagers can cause some of the same problems as hitting them would, including increased risk of depression and aggressive behaviour, a new study has found.
Use of harsh verbal discipline - defined as shouting, cursing, or using insults - may be just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents, researchers said.
The study led by Ming-Te Wang, from the University of Pittsburgh and coauthored by Sarah Kenny from the University of Michigan concludes that, rather than minimising problematic behaviour in adolescents, the use of harsh verbal discipline may in fact aggravate it.
Researchers found that adolescents who had experienced harsh verbal discipline suffered from increased levels of depressive symptoms, and were more likely to demonstrate behavioural problems such as vandalism or antisocial and aggressive behaviour.
Wang and Kenny found that the negative effects of verbal discipline within the two-year period of their study were comparable to the effects shown over the same period of time in other studies that focused on physical discipline.
"From that we can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do because the immediate-to-two-year effects of verbal discipline were about the same as for physical discipline," Wang said.
Based on the literature studying the effects of physical discipline, Wang and Kenny anticipate similar long-term results for adolescents subjected to harsh verbal discipline.
Significantly, the researchers also found that "parental warmth" - the degree of love, emotional support, and affection between parents and adolescents - did not lessen the effects of the verbal discipline.
The sense that parents are yelling at the child "out of love," or "for their own good," does not mitigate the damage inflicted. Neither does the strength of the parent-child bond, Wang said.
Even lapsing only occasionally into the use of harsh verbal discipline, said Wang, can still be harmful.
"Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it's still bad," he said.
Researchers show harsh verbal discipline occurred more frequently in instances in which the child exhibited problem behaviours, and these same problem behaviours, in turn, were more likely to continue when adolescents received verbal discipline.
"It's a vicious circle. And it's a tough call for parents because it goes both ways: problem behaviours from children create the desire to give harsh verbal discipline, but that discipline may push adolescents towards those same problem behaviours," Wang said.
agree or disagree also be honest and admit if you yell at your teen