Casualties from Wars of Words

Elizabeth Cooney this past Monday in the Boston Globe on the effects family arguments have on children:

There is new evidence that family arguing leaves a long-lasting imprint on children, diminishing their future happiness and ability to prosper in the world – even when the anger is verbal, not physical. The evidence comes from a landmark study that began more than 31 years ago in Quincy kindergartens, and continues with little fanfare today. The Simmons Longitudinal Study has followed more than 300 one-time kindergartners into adulthood, tracking them along the way, recording their childhood experiences, and matching that history against who they are in middle age.

[. . .]

The most recent [findings of the study], published last month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, focused on family arguments and physical violence.  […]

[. . .]

“While it makes sense that physical violence scars children,” […] said [Helen Reinherz … who has led the Quincy study since its inception in 1977], “the documentation of the potential lasting influence of verbal conflict is significant. . . . We believe that exposure to increased family argument in adolescence served as an important marker for impaired functioning into adulthood.”

[. . .]

Arguments don’t have to descend into verbal abuse, experts say. The solution is to make the arguments constructive, or, failing that, to swiftly repair the damage of heated words. When ruptures do occur, saying sorry right away can heal the harm.

[. . .]

“It really is about trying to teach people how to be able to communicate what they think and feel in a way that is constructive and not destructive,” said Michelle Fagnano, director of prevention services at the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

“It does take work to undo some of the damage that gets done,” she said. “No family is perfect and every family in one way or another argues, but it is what you do with that argument that will have the greater impact in the long haul.”


2 thoughts on “Casualties from Wars of Words

  1. Anne Caroline Drake

    Interesting. The CDC recently briefed Congress on the long-term health impacts of domestic violence and child abuse. You can read about it on their web site and that of the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Group Health did earlier studies. All of them were reported on in-depth by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

    Also, the Schweitzer Fellows have studies.

    Links to all this research are on my blog. I’ll add a link to this post. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Impact of Domestic Abuse on Health « Anne Caroline Drake

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