Parents who shout at their children or denigrate them are leaving their offspring at greater risk of self-harm, drug use and ending up in jail, new research claims.
The data from LJMU’s Public Health Institute (PHI), supports a growing view that negative comments and aggressive abuse from adults can be as damaging to a child’s development as other currently recognised abuses such as violence and neglect.
More children experience childhood verbal abuse than physical or sexual abuse, and the number who encounter it appears to be as high as 40% and growing, it is claimed.
The data, authored by Professor Mark Bellis, Director of the PHI, shows those verbally abused at a young age are often twice as likely to almost twice as likely (19.9%) as those who had not (10.8%) to use cannabis and at almost double the risk of ending up in jail (4.4%) than those who had not (2.4%).
Professor Bellis, published the findings in BMJ Open, based on a representative sample of 20,556 UK residents.
The data supports a new study this week from US expert, Professor Shanta R Dube, published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. She told The Guardian: “Often adults are unaware of how their shouting tone and criticising words, such as ‘stupid’ and ‘lazy’, can negatively impact children, particularly if that is how they experienced being parented.”
Concern among experts in children’s development and mental health about the extent of adults’ verbal abuse has also led to the creation of a new charity, Words Matter.
The charity, which is thought to be the first organisation in the world to campaign solely on the issue, is being supported by the NSPCC, Save The Children, Place2Be, which provides mental health care to under-18s, and the Anna Freud centre in London, the leading children and families mental health charity.