Study Says Verbal Abuse Affects Kids' Mental Health; What Moms Say?

According to recent research, verbal abuse of children, including shouting and calling them names, is linked to low mood, anti-social behaviour, and drug abuse. Based on the study, young mothers opine on how verbal abuse affects young children.

Kalyani Ganesan
New Update
Child Sexual Abuse At Home

Representative File Image

According to recent research, verbal abuse of children, including shouting and calling them names, is linked to low mood, anti-social behaviour, and drug abuse. The authors of the study argue that because verbal abuse is a part of emotional abuse, it is overlooked and ends up being a “hidden problem.”


They say that childhood verbal abuse should be recognised as a category of its own, as it is child maltreatment. While the study comes with limitations, it is well-designed and significant, especially in helping to define this kind of emotional abuse.

Verbal Abuse Affects Mental Health Of Kids

Children who are maltreated, that is, who suffer from abuse and neglect, are more likely to suffer from mental health issues later in life. One study suggested that a global reduction of maltreatment by 25 percent could prevent 80 million cases of anxiety and depression across the globe.

The government has tried to reduce the maltreatment of children by making certain types of harsh parenting practices illegal. For instance, smacking is banned in Scotland and Wales. However, while smacking is a behaviour that can be easily defined, it’s less likely to tackle the behaviour that constitutes emotional abuse.

When the study asked people if they had experienced abuse or neglect while growing up, more than a third said they had experienced emotional abuse, which makes it the most common type of abuse reported by adults.

The authors of the study argue that by defining the behaviour of adults that constitutes childhood verbal abuse, it can be changed through initiatives such as parent training programmes.


The authors cumulated 21 different terms to define child verbal abuse, and the most common behaviour included yelling and screaming. Threatening, name-calling, and criticising were other common behaviours.

In this study, the age group included children and younger teenagers, and only four studies linked verbal abuse to delinquent behaviour. On the other hand, eight studies reported a link between verbal abuse and depression across all age groups. Therefore, it is vital that more research be conducted to support these findings.

Young Mothers Explain Ill-Effects Of Verbal Abuse

SheThePeople asked young mothers to opine about how verbal abuse takes a toll on the mental health of children.

Sahithya Jagannathan, the mother of two-year-old twins and model, remarked that we have to begin by thinking of children as little autonomous human beings, and only then will we realise that everything that affects adults will affect children as well. “I think the effect of verbal abuse is almost compounded with time, as these are young brains still forming. All of us are fallible humans prone to having bad days, and parenting can be hard, but what I keep reminding myself is that how I speak to them becomes their inner voice as a person. If I don’t speak to them with grace, they will develop self-worth issues as adults,” said Jagannathan.

Maathangi Vijayaragavan, mother of a four-year-old boy and MNC professional, pointed out that since children usually believe everything parents say, what parents and caregivers say matters to form their inner voice. “If they hear plenty of negative words or abusive language, it will eventually become their inner voice. They will gradually lose their confidence, creativity, independence, joy, enthusiasm, and spirit.”


Further, she added, “The more abuse they face, the faster they will begin to start showing disinterest, nervousness, inferiority complex, signs of depression, loneliness, etc. Curbing the potential of children through our words is very unfair to those tiny human beings.”

“I used to be a very short-tempered person, and there were times when I snapped at my kids. Only after seeing the effect, it had on them did I realise my mistake and change for the better,” said Nowshin Syed, mother of three-year-old twins. "Initially, they began mimicking me by reacting angrily among their peers. Then they began panicking when they did something and knew that would make me angry. Seeing them be anxious around their mother made me realise that, as a parent, I wasn’t giving them the safe space that they deserved and that they may seek comfort elsewhere, which might potentially be dangerous. So that was a turning point for me, and now I ensure to follow gentle and respectful parenting.

As a mother of an almost four-year-old myself, I completely agree with these mothers. As parents, we grow along with our children, so it's okay to make mistakes, but at the same time, it's vital to ensure that we provide our kids with a happy, healthy, and safe environment to grow up in.

Suggested Reading: World Children’s Day: Let’s Recognise That Children’s Rights Include Mental Health

mental health verbal abuse Kid's Mental Health Mental Health Of Kids