Middle-class parents who shout at their teenage children are increasing their risk of depression and troubled behaviour.
Even if parents enjoy a close relationship with their son and daughter, harsh verbal discipline was found have a dramatic impact on their teens emotional development, a study found.
This form of discipline can vary from yelling and shouting at a child, to swearing and using words to humiliate them.
Scientists looked at 976 two-parent families in the US, the majority of which were middle-class.
They found that many shifted from physical to verbal discipline as their children entered adolescence.
They also discovered that more severe forms of harsh verbal discipline were commonplace, and directed at teens in nearly half of households.
The researchers found if parents use such punishment when their child is 13, the teen is more likely to have behavioural or emotional problems later on.
These youngsters tended to suffer more depressive symptoms between ages 13 and 14 than children who were not disciplined in this manner, while they were also more likely to have conduct problems such as misbehaving at school, lying, stealing, or fighting.
This is one of the first studies to indicate that parents’ harsh verbal discipline is damaging to the developing adolescent,’ said lead researcher Dr Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh.
The notion that harsh discipline is without consequence, once there is a strong parent-child bond-that the adolescent will understand that ‘they’re doing this because they love me’-is misguided because parents’ warmth didn’t lessen the effects of harsh verbal discipline.
Indeed, harsh verbal discipline appears to be detrimental in all circumstances.’