Adults shouting at children can be as harmful as s3xual or physical abuse, study finds
Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults shouting at, denigrating or verbally threatening children can be as damaging to their development as s3xual or physical abuse, a new US and UK study has found.
The study, published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, reviewed 166 earlier studies to produce a detailed analysis of the existing literature on the topic.
The authors called for childhood verbal abuse to be ascribed to its own category of maltreatment to facilitate prevention.
Child maltreatment is currently classified into four categories — physical abuse, s3xual abuse, emotional abuse, of which verbal abuse is a part and neglect — and this study can inform strategies for prevention and treatment.
Unlike other forms of emotional abuse, including indifference, silent treatment and witnessing domestic violence, researchers categorised verbal abuse as more “overt” and said it “warrants special attention”.
Commissioned by Words Matter — a British charity that aims to improve children’s health by ending verbal abuse — the study was carried out by researchers at Wingate University in North Carolina and University College London.
“Childhood verbal abuse desperately needs to be acknowledged as an abuse subtype because of the lifelong negative consequences,” Professor Shanta Dube, the study’s lead author and director of Wingate University’s Master of Public Health Program, said in a statement.
The study, which studied the impact of shouting by adults such as parents, teachers and coaches, cited several papers that suggested the lasting effects of childhood verbal abuse can manifest as mental distress, such as depression and anger; externalising symptoms, such as committing crimes, substance use or perpetrating abuse; and physical health outcomes, such as developing obesity or lung disease.
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