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The Damaging Impact of Verbal Abuse on Children: A Wake-Up Call for Adults



Words Matter's study reveals that verbal abuse towards children is more prevalent than previously thought, negatively impacting their mental health. (Shutterstock)
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A recent study by the charity Words Matter has revealed that verbal abuse towards children is more prevalent than previously thought, with two out of five children regularly experiencing it. The study found that derogatory words and phrases, often used by parents, teachers, and caregivers, can have a lasting negative impact on a child’s mental health.

The study surveyed over a thousand children aged 11 to 17. The results showed that 41% of children have experienced verbal abuse from adults in their care. More than half of these children reported hearing insults and disparaging language on a weekly basis, while 10% heard it daily. The majority of the children said that the negative language made them feel sad and low.

On the other hand, the study also found that positive and encouraging phrases can have an equally positive effect on children. The children reported that such language uplifted them and boosted their confidence.

The researchers also interviewed parents about their use of degrading language. While none of the parents felt good about using such language, many expressed feelings of guilt, shame, and sadness. Despite this, more than half of the children surveyed believed that the verbal abuse was intended to hurt their feelings.

The study underscores the importance of adults being aware of the power of their words and the impact they can have on children. Words Matter aims to provide resources and training to help adults understand the effects of their words on children.


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