Study Says Verbal Abuse as Bad as Physical Abuse

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh claims that verbal abuse is just as emotionally harmful to children as physical abuse. Apparently yelling, shouting, and insults do as much long-term damage to children as beating them does.

Well, this is no surprise. What no one seems to understand is that the physical portion of physical abuse is not the hardest part of it for children to overcome. Physical abuse is so damaging emotionally because of the fact that it is almost always accompanied by verbal abuse, belittling insults, and feelings of intense isolation and rejection. I think the emotional and psychological side of it is very difficult to overcome, whereas the physical pain very rarely stays with a person.

I find it interesting how people are interpreting this study. Were they really under the impression that physical pain was the worst thing a parent could inflict on his child? They act so surprised: “Who knew? Emotional pain lasts longer than physical pain? And here we thought our children were nothing more than soulless meat puppets.”

My claim for years has been, from personal and observed experience, that physical pain is the least intrusive, most forgettable pain anyone can ever experience. In a choice between a chair of shame, a dunce cap, or a cool-headed spanking, the spanking option has the most minimal long-term impact. No one wants to hear that. That’s insane, people say.

But think about it. Try to recall the physical pain you have felt in the past. Try to feel the same pain you have felt before. Have you ever stubbed your toe? Bring that pain up again in your toe. You can’t really. But think about some time when you were sad—really sad. Think about the death of a loved one or that time you felt absolutely ashamed. You can recall that pain, can’t you? You can even amplify it if you want. It’s why you cry sometimes thinking about the sad things in your life. But no one yelps in pain recalling a stubbed toe. Few people even recall a stubbed toe at all.

The same goes with the discipline you received from your parents. I was spanked as a child. A lot. Probably more than once a day for some years. But I remember specifically only two or three of the spankings I ever got. Do you know why? Because my parents did it right. The very, very few spankings I remember are the ones that were done in anger, or that were accompanied by harsh words. And I don’t recall the physical pain of those spankings. All I recall is the look on my father’s face or the tone of his voice. Or how bad I felt.

But that was such a rarity. In the vast majority of cases, my parents spanked me with cool heads and warm affection in an attempt to teach me to do right and correct my waywardness. And it worked in the end. I am so grateful to them for their patience and faithfulness to me and my five siblings in this matter.

That a generation of “experts” who failed to rear their own children successfully should purport to teach others how to “parent” is ridiculous. And I have a serious problem with abuse studies. They are flawed by a premeditated lack of definitional precision. Not everyone that has been spanked has been abused. And “hitting” and “spanking” are not interchangeable terms.

Spanking that is done as a small part of an overall parenting plan can and is very effective for instruction and correction. If it is done correctly, the only thing your child will remember is the lesson you taught him—not the pain he felt in his bottom.

I’m afraid that this study, however, will further confuse and delude the already helpless parents that have been enslaved to popular contemporary parenting models. Some parents probably feel like they now have even fewer tools available to them to corral their wayward kids. They can’t spank. They can’t shout. They can’t do anything but monitor their kids. They can do no more than watch their kids fall off the rails.

Just look around you, so-called experts of child-rearing. This culture is the product of your methods. How’s it working out, you think?