The study followed 976 two-parent families, with children assessed at ages 13 and 14. Researchers asked kids various survey questions to appraise their behavior problems, depression symptoms and the warmth of the relationship with their parents. Parents completed surveys to gauge their use of harsh verbal discipline.
When their children were 13, about 45% of participating mothers and 42% of fathers said they had used harsh verbal discipline with their child during the past year. Those kids whose parents used higher levels of harsh verbal discipline when their children were 13 experienced larger increases in behavior problems the next year, including fighting with peers, trouble in school and lying to parents, as well as symptoms of depression.
The increases were similar if parents used harsh verbal discipline or physical approaches such as pushing or spanking. The degree of warmth of the parent-child relationship outside of any altercations didn’t alter the negative effects of the harsh verbal discipline. Kids’ behavior problems also led parents to increase their use of harsh verbal discipline tactics, fueling an escalating cycle, the study found.
As to why yelling can prove so toxic for young teens, “adolescence is a very sensitive period when [kids] are trying to develop their self-identities,” Dr. Wang said. “When you yell, it hurts their self image.
The presence of significant amounts of yelling in the teen’s home indicates a problem already exists. Not yelling probably isn’t going to solve the problem.
Not trying to be judgmental – I’ve had teens, and I know how difficult it can be – but if there’s a serious amount of yelling going on, it does not seem likely to me that the yelling is the problem. It is more likely to be a symptom, rather than the cause, of what’s wrong with the family.