July 01, 2007

Verbal Abuse Seriously Harms Children's Emotional Development

Research featured in Harvard Mental Health Letter and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry looked at the damage that hostile words, and or yelling can have on a child. They found "words are weapons that can cause lasting wounds, especially when wielded by parents against children. The damage is sometimes more serious and lasting than injuries that result from beatings", say Harvard researchers reporting on a survey of young adults."

Physical abuse has been linked as a possible factor contributing to the development of schizophrenia. This survey shows that physical child abuse and witnessing domestic violence are not the only traumatic experiences a child can have when relating to a parent or authority figure. Constant and severe verbal abuse might also produce lasting problems for children. Another survey reported over 63% of American parents admit that they have sworn at or insulted a child at some time, but occasional instances of harsh words or yelling is arguably not the issue. The authors view these abusive communications as stressors on the child that may alter development during critical periods.

More than 500 people aged 18-22 who responded to an ad were asked whether their parents had ever yelled at them, sworn at them, insulted, threatened or ridiculed them. Among those who reported no physical or sexual abuse, the researchers chose the 10 percent most often subject to this verbal abuse and compared them with controls.

All the participants answered a series of questionnaires about symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, and especially dissociative experiences -- split consciousness, out-of-body sensations, a sense of unreality. They were also asked about symptoms typical of temporal lobe epilepsy, including transient hallucinations and automatic actions, as well as dissociative experiences.

All types of abuse -- sexual, physical, and emotional (including verbal abuse and witnessing domestic violence) -- raised the risk of depression, anxiety, dissociation and epilepsy like symptoms. Emotional abuse had as great an effect as the other kinds, and verbal abuse was a particularly strong risk factor for dissociative episodes and epilepsy like symptoms.--In Brief: Names Will Hurt You

This research only highlights the importance of a healthy and stable environment for children. Dysfunctional family environments have been shown to be great risk factors in the development of schizophrenia (Finnish Adoption Study). Parenting skills and education, support groups, and overall awareness of what constitutes a healthy family environment play key roles in the future mental health of children (see our prevention section focusing on childhood and parenting resources)

Source Scientific Journal Article:

Teicher MH, et al. "Sticks, Stones, and Hurtful Words: Relative Effects of Various Forms of Childhood Maltreatment," American Journal of Psychiatry (June 2006): Vol. 163, No. 6, pp. 993–1000.

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My papa yell me so now i get the damagement of brain emocional. i was of belevement i had sickness but not now truth is papa yell me and brain damagement emocional. he yell now eyes see fantasmas and ears audioshalcinates.so he need prisonment now for death my emocional. no pills not sick this truth now. i grateful now truth i have not sickness.i emocional damagement not sickness.

Posted by: Ptoloyria at July 2, 2007 08:24 PM

???? Your use of bold, and the way this is written is in itself abusive. This is like a tabloid yelling at us Headlines! Schiz caused by parents yelling at kids! Like autism is caused by refrigerator moms and absent fathers. Oh noooooo....I got yelled at and now I am going to get schiz! Oh... or is it that I DO have schiz and that's why I recollect them yelling at me... is that one of the false memories or the real ones?

Posted by: Thoughtful at July 3, 2007 06:26 AM

Thougtful that is probably the most insensitive and insulting comment i have everheard. If someone bullies, molests, verbally abuses you then you will become ill in one shape or form. Whether it is depression, slight paranoia, severe anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder etc.. Trust me these illnesses are heavily infulenced by social climate and external factors.

I implore the Administrator to remove this comment, as Thoughtful is only adding to stigma, bias, and insenstivity. If you are going to bother please type something that is encouraging not degrading to others. As you are only antagonising and bullying people, especially people in emotional distress.

Posted by: Max at July 3, 2007 08:57 AM

our son was just diagnosis that he might be schizophrenia, first they said bi polar. what we like to know can they go hand in hand? he was doing really good he came along way in six months, but something happen to tear it all down. his guidance councilor at school told him that he will probably never graduate or just flunk out of highschool, because of the fcat testing we have down here. she tore all he did the last six months in less the five minutes. how do we build him back up? so far what we tried hasn't worked. he is a very very smart young man. we are hurting right along with him. if any one has ant suggestoins please let us know.thank you

Posted by: margaret hill at September 16, 2007 02:34 PM


I realzie it's been a few months since your posting and I hope that, by chance, you read this. First of all, I'm very sorry that your son has been touched by illness. I know it is tough. I wanted to tell you about a video that I found from a link here on schizophrenia.com. To find it, click on the "Early screening..." link on the homepage bar, then click on the treatment center list, then Maine - as in the state, then the very bottom link under "Maine". It is a video about a program called PIER and it shows how intellegent young people in college have dealt with mental illness and managed to go foward in life, specifically with the support of their families. You or your son might find hope from watching it, I know I did. The site is:

Posted by: Prarie at December 17, 2007 06:56 AM

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