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Study: Verbal, Physical Abuse Have Similar Effects On Children

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PITTSBURGH (CBSDFW.COM) – A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that yelling may be just as detrimental to the long-term well being of adolescents as physical abuse.

The study defines yelling, or harsh verbal discipline, as shouting, cursing, or using insults.

Researchers found that the use of harsh verbal discipline does not minimize problematic behavior, but instead may aggravate it.

Adolescents subjected to such discipline actually suffered from increased levels of depressive symptoms, and had a higher likelihood of demonstrating behavioral problems — including vandalism or antisocial and aggressive behavior.

Surprisingly, the results were comparable to a study focused on physical discipline over the same two-year period.

“From that we can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do because the immediate-to-two-year effects of verbal discipline were about the same as for physical discipline,” said Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. “Based on the literature studying the effects of physical discipline, Wang and Kenny anticipate similar long-term results for adolescents subjected to harsh verbal discipline.”

The study also concluded that the effects of verbal abuse were not lessened by “parental warmth” — the emotional support and love between parents and adolescents.

“Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it’s still bad,” said Wang.

Researchers found that parents are better off communicating with their children “on an equal level, explaining their worries and rationale to them.” A number of parental programs are well positioned to provide alternatives to verbal abuse, according to the authors.

The study was conducted at 10 public middle schools in eastern Pennsylvania, incorporating 967 adolescents and their parents.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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