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Sep 16, 2013 02:34 AM EDT

Yelling At Teens Linked To Depression and Troubled Behavior

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Majority of parents resort to harsh verbal discipline instead of physically punishing their teens.However, even oral lashings can have a negative impact on mental health of children, according to a new study led by Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education in the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

The results were published online in the journal Child Development. 

The paper, coauthored by Sarah Kenny, a graduate student in the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, claims that instead of minimizing problematic behavior in young people, the use of harsh verbal discipline might, in fact, intensify it.

The researchers have found that harsh verbal discipline including shouting, screaming, yelling, cursing, insulting or name-calling similar to 'dumb' or 'lazy' may affect the long-term well-being of teenagers. 13- and 14-year-olds subjected to harsh verbal discipline revealed elevated levels of depressive symptoms, and were more likely to suffer from behavioral problems such as vandalism or rebellious and violent behavior.

The researchers also found that 'parental warmth' i.e., expressing love, showing emotional support and affection between parents and adolescents did not reduce the effects of the verbal discipline nor did it help to strengthen of the parent-child bond.

"Adolescents are really sensitive to language and judgment from other people," said Wang. "It hurts their self-image and makes them feel like they are useless."

Wang said that even occasional use of harsh verbal discipline can prove damaging.

"Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it's still bad," he said.

Researchers claimed that the findings are bi-directional. Harsh verbal discipline occurs often in children with problem behaviors, and these same problem behaviors are more likely to persist when they receive verbal discipline.

"It's a vicious circle," Wang said. "And it's a tough call for parents because it goes both ways: problem behaviors from children create the desire to give harsh verbal discipline, but that discipline may push adolescents toward those same problem behaviors."

The researchers suggest parents should speak calmly and have open conversation with their teenage children, explaining them their fears before punishing their children. Parents should also reward their children for good behavior.

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