Parents Who Use Psychological Aggression May End Up With Troubled Children

Father Telling Off Daughter At Home

A University of Minnesota study suggests that mom’s who yell at their babies put them at a much greater risk for conduct problems later in life.

In the study, scientist followed 260 mother’s and their children from birth until first grade and found that roughly handling and harsh speaking lead to more aggression among those kids entering kindergarten.

The study also suggested that spankings and conflict between moms and toddlers lead to more defiance, aggression and other conduct disorders later in life (Child Development, Oct. 26).

While this study focused on the relationship between mother and child, I don’t think it changes much if the dad is present and is the one having negative interactions with the child on a regular basis.

I’ve seen many children who were negatively affected by the way their father’s interacted with them, especially if they were scared of their father or living in domestic violent homes.

Raising children can be very stressful and at times, parents may lose their temper and yell at their child.

Research shows that nearly all parents yell at their children, but it’s the harsh words that come with the yelling that appear to do the most damage.

Many times in public or even in sessions I hear parents call their child stupid, lazy or threaten to hit them. Lot’s of times this happens when parents think their child has the problem, but it becomes immediate to me when I hear the parent talk to their kids in disparaging ways, that the problem started at home.

If you hear yourself in this don’t feel bad, many parents use what is called psychological aggression  as a form of discipline by the time their child is 5 years old. This includes things such as yelling, cursing, screaming, name calling, threats, threatening to hit them or threatening to send them away.

Also, parents who spank their young children tend to continue spanking them, even into their early teens. While there is a lot of controversy about spanking, children who were spanked tend to be more aggressive later in life. Boys who were spanked tend to be more physically aggressive, while girls who were spanked appear to be more willing to put up with abuse from a partner.

Psychological aggression in the form of yelling at their children is the most common form of discipline parents use, which includes shouting and screaming, but many parents also resort to name calling and threats, especially when it comes to teenagers who also are sometimes threatened to be kicked out or sent away.

When a child is treated too harshly, they can become destructive, deviant, angry, withdrawn or insecure. They can end up in troubled relationships later in life or develop risky behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders and a host of other mental problems.

Many of the teens I work with who describe to me what I would consider harsh psychological aggression end up with low-self esteem, depression, anxiety, body image issues and self-injurious behaviors. Many of them become scared of and un-trusting of their parents, which means that they end up hiding critical information from them on a regular basis.

The parents may think that they have perfect kids because their kids aren’t given them problems, but some of these same kids are constantly in trouble at school or are having many inter and intrapersonal problems that they keep from their parents.

Does this mean that yelling is a bad thing? Many of us grew up with parents who yelled at us and we turned out okay, but it seems like the harshness and the frequency of the yelling is what makes the difference, combined with how sensitive the child is. Each one is different. You may be able to yell and curse at your first born child and he/she turns out perfectly fine, while your second born child ends up a juvenile delinquent.

It may be unrealistic to think that a parent will never yell at their child, but they can be more conscious of how often and the language they use when they do feel the need to raise their voices. One thing parents can do is learn to condemn the undesired act the child is doing, not the child him or herself.

I’ve written a previous post about setting rules and expectations for your teen that you may find helpful for children of all ages.

Remember that the word discipline means to teach, not to belittle, threaten or abuse physically or psychologically.