While physical and sexual abuse have declined, emotional abuse, including verbal abuse, appears to be on the rise

Hey there, parents, teachers, coaches, and all you caring adults! Have you ever stopped to think about the impact of your words on the kids in your life?

A recent study in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect suggests that shouting at, denigrating, or verbally threatening children can be just as damaging to their development as physical or sexual abuse.

The research, conducted by experts from Wingate University in North Carolina and University College London, reviewed a whopping 166 previous studies on child abuse.

What they found was eye-opening: childhood verbal abuse, which includes yelling and hurtful words, deserves its own category of maltreatment.

The recognition is crucial because verbal abuse can have lifelong negative consequences.

Unlike other forms of emotional abuse, like silent treatment or witnessing domestic violence, verbal abuse is considered more “overt.” This means it’s easier to spot, but it’s also essential to address.

The study was commissioned by Words Matter, a British charity committed to ending verbal abuse against children.

Professor Shanta Dube, the study’s lead author, emphasizes the urgency of recognizing verbal abuse as a serious issue. Verbal abuse can lead to mental distress, such as depression and anger, as well as externalizing symptoms, like engaging in criminal behavior or substance abuse. It can even impact physical health, increasing the risk of obesity and other health issues.

Jessica Bondy, the founder of Words Matter, reminds us that all adults can get overwhelmed and say things unintentionally. However, it’s crucial to work together to recognize these actions and put an end to childhood verbal abuse so that children can thrive.

The study also suggests a shift in the prevalence of childhood abuse. While physical and sexual abuse have declined, emotional abuse, including verbal abuse, appears to be on the rise. This highlights the need for consistent definitions and interventions to address this pressing issue effectively.

So, what can you do to make a positive difference? Words Matter offers resources on their website to help adults avoid shouting, insults, putdowns, or name-calling when communicating with children. It’s also essential to think before you speak and take the time to repair your relationship with a child after saying something hurtful.

Remember, when it comes to discipline and communication, the first rule of yelling is to avoid critique while doing it. It’s important to consider the child’s age and temperament too, as not all children respond the same way to being yelled at.

Let’s take this study as a wake-up call.

Our words matter, and they can shape a child’s life in profound ways. Let’s choose our words carefully and create an environment where children can truly flourish.

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