Effects of parental verbal aggression on children's self-esteem and school marks

Child Abuse Negl. 1999 Apr;23(4):339-51. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(99)00006-x.


Objective: The aim of the study was to distinguish the effects of verbal aggression from those of physical aggression and investigate whether parental verbal violence has negative effects on children's self-esteem and academic achievements.

Method: One hundred and forty-four 10-year-old children completed the Harter Self-perception Profile for Children questionnaire and a questionnaire concerning their mothers' and fathers' verbal aggression towards them and their use of physical punishment. The researchers used school records to obtain the subjects' marks in French (their native language) and Mathematics.

Results: Six children had never been the targets of either verbal aggression or physical punishment. Thirty-four children had been subjected to both types of aggression. Verbal aggression alone was found to be in significant negative correlation with three of six components of self-esteem. Verbal aggression alone was also found to be in significant negative correlation with French marks. In addition children who had been subject to greater verbal aggression had lower self-esteem and lower marks in French than children who had been subject to lesser verbal aggression. They were also significantly negatively affected in a fourth component of self-esteem.

Conclusions: Parental verbal aggression alone as separate and distinct from physical punishment contributes to lowering children's self-esteem and school achievements. Given the extent of the use of verbal aggression by ordinary parents the authors suggested a need for parent education on the topic of positive methods of child rearing.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Child
  • Child Rearing
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Self Concept*