24th Jun 2015

Effect of Shouting on Development

What are the effects of shouting on kids? How can anger can be detrimental to development?

Anger is a complex and powerful emotion that can not only effect yourself but the people around you. Let us not pretend… everyone gets angry, we would not be human if we didn’t. It is only in the method in which we express our anger and use it to shout and engage in conflict that we begin to effect ourselves, others and our beautiful children.  

Unfortunately, shouting and conflict can have detrimental effects on our children not only in the short term but in the long term as well. You will be surprised to hear how effective anger and conflict can be in hindering a child not only emotionally, socially and behaviourally but on an educational level as well.  

Let’s discuss the emotional and the social

Children who are grown up in an environment that causes them to be fearful are adversely effected in their emotional and social development. Children at a young age are egocentric. In simple terms, they see everything in the world in terms of themselves and have trouble seeing the point of view of others. This means that if we shout at our children they will generally take responsibility (daddy is shouting at me because I am bad not because he is frustrated about work). 

According to attachment theory, children model their future relationships based on their relationship with their parents in infancy. Negative developmental outcomes have been found in children with insecure attachments to their parents. If a child faces adversity in their relationship with their parent they are likely to see them as unreliable and this will translate into their future relationships. 

Research has also shown that the more serious the parental conflict the higher the likelihood of a child developing an insecure attachment style. Children with this type of attachment have increased cortisol levels meaning they are hyper-vigilant and reactive. Subsequently, these children are constantly looking out for danger and can also be more aggressive resulting in lower popularity amongst their peers.  

So on a social and emotional level, children who are in households in which they are screamed at or in which there are high levels of conflict will face issues such as peer rejection, poor resilience (coping skills), low autonomy, fear, anxiety, insomnia and low self-esteem. 

What about the other areas of development?

Believe it or not, high stress environments created by shouting and conflict can also have adverse effects on a child’s educational performance. Children who learn to “tune out”  as a defence mechanism from being shouted at regularly will have trouble focussing. This may not impact the child too much in the early years but as a child grows and is expected to concentrate for longer periods of time at school, the concentration difficulties become more prominent. 

And, as you may have guessed, if a child has trouble focussing this will hinder their learning and development.  

Children in these high stress environments are also more likely to develop conduct issues. They have increased levels of aggression and are likely to invade the personal space of others and act out violently from a very young age.   

Is shouting an effective form of discipline? 

According to the abundance of research, shouting is not effective. In fact, only 10% of messages we are portraying to children are attributed to the verbal. The remaining impact comes from our body language and our choice of words. Furthermore, children who are shouted at regularly may begin to tune out and become unresponsive to your attempts to discipline them. 

Now, we are all human and are going to have an emotional outburst here and there. Luckily, occasional screaming has not been found to have detrimental effects on a child’s development. 

Then what is effective? What has been found to be more effective is using a firm, calm and controlled tone of voice. This shows a child that you are in control, you are the adult and that they cannot provoke emotional outbursts in you by acting out. Make sure you implement consistent forms of positive reinforcement and follow through with consequences. It is in your actions. If you do not follow through with consequences you will more likely face a situation in which you feel the need to raise your voice. 

Thank you for reading :). Donna Tanamal, thank you for your wonderful article suggestion. For any questions or article suggestions please contact me on melanie@futurestars.com.au.