University of Pittsburgh study: Harsh verbal discipline is not effective

5 Sep

Moi really didn’t want to touch that “Tiger Mom” kerfuffle because having read some selected passages culled from excerpts of Amy Chua’s “memoirs” of raising her daughters moi’s first thought was that girlfriend possibly needed her medication adjusted. Annie Murphy Paul provides a more balanced approach to Ms. Chua’s biography in the Time article, “Tiger Moms’, Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer?

Most surprising of all to Chua’s detractors may be the fact that many elements of her approach are supported by research in psychology and cognitive science. Take, for example, her assertion that American parents go too far in insulating their children from discomfort and distress. Chinese parents, by contrast, she writes, “assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.” In the 2008 book A Nation of Wimps, author Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large of Psychology Today magazine, marshals evidence that shows Chua
is correct. “Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don’t develop what psychologists call ‘mastery experiences,’ ” Marano explains. “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Children who have never had to test their abilities, says Marano, grow into “emotionally brittle” young adults who are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Another parenting practice with which Chua takes issue is Americans’ habit, as she puts it, of “slathering praise on their kids for the lowest of tasks — drawing a squiggle or waving a stick.” Westerners often laud their children as “talented” or “gifted,” she says, while Asian parents highlight the importance of hard work. And in fact, research performed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has found that the way parents offer approval affects the way children perform, even the way they feel about themselves.
Dweck has conducted studies with hundreds of students, mostly early adolescents, in which experimenters gave the subjects a set of difficult problems from an IQ test. Afterward, some of the young people were praised for their ability: “You must be smart at this.” Others were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.” The kids who were complimented on their intelligence were much more likely to turn down the opportunity to do a challenging new task that they could learn from. “They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their deficiencies and call into question their talent,” Dweck says. Ninety percent of the kids who were praised for their hard work, however, were eager to take on the demanding new exercise.,9171,2043477,00.html

Still, some of Chua’s comments to her daughters are very hard to take and border on abusive in moi’s opinion. Paul reports that Chua is turning the dial back a degree.

Bonnie Rochman wrote the provocative Time article, Take This, Tiger Mom!

It’s been a year since the “Tiger mom” roared onto the scene, sharing how she compelled her kids to practice the piano for hours sans potty breaks and denied them frivolous activities like playdates.
In her best-selling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Yale professor Amy Chua made the case that overly indulgent parents — you know who you are: maybe you let your kids play the occasional video game or allow them to spend the night at a friend’s house — can beget only spoiled and unmotivated children.
Now a fellow academic — and Chinese mother — is refuting that tough-as-nails approach, urging parents to let kids be kids. Girls, it turns out, just wanna have fun. And so do boys.
Happiness is actually pretty important for children, says Desiree Baolian Qin, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University.
In two upcoming papers accepted for publication, Qin and her co-authors have looked at the experiences of Chinese-American children and found that high-achieving Chinese students were more depressed and anxious than white children.

The question is how to find a balance between “Tiger Mom” and phony self-esteem.

Science Daily reported in the article, Using Harsh Verbal Discipline With Teens Found to Be Harmful:

Many American parents yell or shout at their teenagers. A new longitudinal study has found that using such harsh verbal discipline in early adolescence can be harmful to teens later. Instead of minimizing teens’ problematic behavior, harsh verbal discipline may actually aggravate it.
The study, from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, appears in the journal Child Development.
Harsh verbal discipline happens when parents use psychological force to cause a child to experience emotional pain or discomfort in an effort to correct or control behavior. It can vary in severity from yelling and shouting at a child to insulting and using words to humiliate. Many parents shift from physical to verbal discipline as their children enter adolescence, and harsh verbal discipline is not uncommon. A nationally representative survey found that about 90 percent of American parents reported one or more instances of using harsh verbal discipline with children of all ages; the rate of the more severe forms of harsh verbal discipline (swearing and cursing, calling names) directed at teens was 50 percent.
Few studies have looked at harsh verbal discipline in adolescence. This study found that when parents use it in early adolescence, teens suffer detrimental outcomes later. The children of mothers and fathers who used harsh verbal discipline when they were 13 suffered more depressive symptoms between ages 13 and 14 than their peers who weren’t disciplined in this way; they were also more likely to have conduct problems such as misbehaving at school, lying to parents, stealing, or fighting….

Here is the press release from the University of Pittsburgh:

September 4, 2013
Yelling Doesn’t Help, May Harm Adolescents, Pitt-Led Study Finds
Impact of harsh verbal discipline similar to that of physical discipline, researchers report
Adam Reger
Cell: 412-802-5908
PITTSBURGH—Most parents who yell at their adolescent children wouldn’t dream of physically punishing their teens. Yet their use of harsh verbal discipline—defined as shouting, cursing, or using insults—may be just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents.
Ming-Te WangThat’s the main finding of a new study led by Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education and of psychology in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The results were published online today in the journal Child Development.
Research has shown that a majority of parents use harsh verbal discipline at some point during their child’s adolescence. Relatively little research has been done, however, into understanding the effects of this kind of discipline.
The paper, coauthored by Sarah Kenny, a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, concludes that, rather than minimizing problematic behavior in adolescents, the use of harsh verbal discipline may in fact aggravate it. The researchers found that adolescents who had experienced harsh verbal discipline suffered from increased levels of depressive symptoms, and were more likely to demonstrate behavioral problems such as vandalism or antisocial and aggressive behavior.
The study is one of the first to indicate that harsh verbal discipline from parents can be damaging to developing adolescents.
Perhaps most surprising, Wang and Kenny found that the negative effects of verbal discipline within the two-year period of their study were comparable to the effects shown over the same period of time in other studies that focused on physical discipline.
“From that we can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do because the immediate-to-two-year effects of verbal discipline were about the same as for physical discipline,” Wang said. Based on the literature studying the effects of physical discipline, Wang and Kenny anticipate similar long-term results for adolescents subjected to harsh verbal discipline.
Significantly, the researchers also found that “parental warmth”—i.e., the degree of love, emotional support, and affection between parents and adolescents—did not lessen the effects of the verbal discipline. The sense that parents are yelling at the child “out of love,” or “for their own good,” Wang said, does not mitigate the damage inflicted. Neither does the strength of the parent-child bond.
Even lapsing only occasionally into the use of harsh verbal discipline, said Wang, can still be harmful. “Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it’s still bad,” he said.
Another significant contribution of the paper is the finding that these results are bidirectional: the authors showed that harsh verbal discipline occurred more frequently in instances in which the child exhibited problem behaviors, and these same problem behaviors, in turn, were more likely to continue when adolescents received 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 report that parents who wish to modify the behavior of their teenage children would be better advised to communicate with them on an equal level, explaining their worries and rationale to them. Parenting programs, say the authors of the study, are well positioned to offer parents insight into the ineffectiveness of harsh verbal discipline, and to offer alternatives.
The researchers conducted the study in 10 public middle schools in eastern Pennsylvania over a two-year period, working with 967 adolescents and their parents. Students and their parents completed surveys over a period of two years on topics related to their mental health, child-rearing practices, the quality of the parent-child relationship, and general demographics.
Significantly, most of the students were from middle-class families. “There was nothing extreme or broken about these homes,” Wang stressed. “These were not ‘high-risk’ families. We can assume there are a lot of families like this—there’s an okay relationship between parents and kids, and the parents care about their kids and don’t want them to engage in problem behaviors.”
Males comprised 51 percent of the study subjects, while 54 percent were European American, 40 percent African American, and 6 percent from other ethnic backgrounds.
The paper, “Longitudinal Links Between Fathers’ and Mothers’ Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents’ Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms,” which appeared online in the journal Child Development on Sept. 4, is scheduled to appear in the March/April 2014 print issue of the journal. The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.


The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
Journal Reference:
1. Ming-Te Wang, Sarah Kenny. Longitudinal Links Between Fathers’ and Mothers’ Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents’ Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms. Child Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12143

The question is how to find a balance between “Tiger Mom” and phony self-esteem.

In No one is perfect: People sometimes fail, moi said:
The Child Development Institute has a good article about how to help your child develop healthy self esteem. A discussion of values is often difficult, but the question the stage parent, over the top little league father, or out of control soccer mom should ask of themselves is what do you really and truly value? What is more important, your child’s happiness and self esteem or your fulfilling an unfinished part of your life through your child? Joe Jackson, the winner of the most heinous stage parent award saw his dreams fulfilled with the price of the destruction of his children’s lives. Most people with a healthy dose of self esteem and sanity would say this is too high a price.

Letting Go

Sarah Mahoney wrote a good article at Parents.Com about four ways to let go of your kids and she describes her four steps, which she calls Independence Day. Newsweek also has an article on the fine art of letting go
Remember it is your child’s life and they should be allowed to realize their dreams, not yours.

The goal should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


Is the self-esteem movement just another education fad?

‘Tiger mothers’ should tame parenting approach

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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