New Research Reveals Long-Term Harm of Verbal Abuse on Children’s Mental Health
New research conducted by Wingate University and University College London has unveiled the damaging effects that verbal abuse can have on children’s psyches. The study, which delved into 166 prior studies on childhood maltreatment, homed in on verbal abuse, primarily characterized as yelling and screaming.
Published in the esteemed journal Child Abuse & Neglect, the research shed light on the often-underestimated impact of emotional abuse on children’s mental and physical health throughout their lifespan. Dr. Zachary Ginder, a psychological consultant, warns that emotional abuse, including verbal abuse, is often undetected and may be more prevalent than other forms of mistreatment.
Verbal abuse encompasses various forms of verbal aggression, intimidation, and degradation, and should not be taken lightly. The study identified parents, other adults or caregivers, mothers, teachers, coaches, police, and multiple individuals as adult perpetrators of verbal abuse. These findings indicate that verbal abuse can occur in various settings and by different people.
The outcomes of verbal abuse highlighted in the research included emotional and mental distress, externalizing symptoms, internalizing behaviors, neurobiological changes, and physical health problems. Among the most commonly reported consequences in children across the reviewed studies were depression, aggression, behavioral disorders, substance abuse, anger, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and delinquent behavior.
Study author Shanta R. Dube emphasizes that childhood verbal abuse is a hidden problem that can lead to severe ramifications such as depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance use disorders, and other challenges in adulthood. Dr. Shana Johnson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, lauds the recognition of verbal abuse as a form of childhood emotional abuse, stating that this acknowledgment paves the way for education, research, and effective interventions.
However, the study authors acknowledge certain limitations in their research. They did not account for geographical or cultural factors, nor did they explore verbal abuse among peers or romantic partners. Future research is needed to delve into these risk factors more comprehensively.
The research was commissioned by Words Matter, a charity dedicated to advocating for the prevention of childhood verbal abuse. By shedding light on the long-lasting consequences of verbal abuse, this study raises awareness about the pressing need for interventions and support systems to protect children from such forms of emotional mistreatment.
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