December 20, 2013 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at how screaming and cursing at your teen can backfire.

According to a recent study published in Child Development, using harsh verbal discipline appears to be ineffective in addressing adolescent behavior problems and can even increase such behaviors. The findings of the study also reported that using harsh verbal discipline can be just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents as physical punishment.

The study found that teens between the ages of 13 and 14 who experienced emotional pain and discomfort from harsh parental verbal discipline displayed an increase in anger and a decrease in inhibition. These effects prompted the very behaviors, including lying, cheating, stealing and fighting, that parents set out to originally stop.

The study also revealed that “parental warmth” or yelling “out of love” did not lessen the damage caused by harsh verbal discipline. Furthermore, the strength of the parent-child bond did not help to mitigate the damaging effects.

Parenting adolescents can be very difficult, but shouting and using harsh statements will not help to change behavior. The best way to “get through” to a teen is to communicate with them on an equal level. Parents need to calmly explain their rationales and worries to their children in order to help modify behaviors.

Rahil Briggs, director of pediatric behavioral health services at Montefiore Medical Center and an assistant professor of pediatrics with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, commented on the results of the study saying, “The issue is that your parents are supposed to be on your side, on your team. But here we're talking about verbal intimidation and humiliation, which is in many ways the most damaging to children trying to find their way in life.”

Learn more about this study and its findings here.