Why childhood verbal abuse affects us

There are certain childhood myths that what happens to us in the early years of life determines who we will be as adults. For example, many people believe that parents’ personalities “stick” to their sons and daughters due to cohabitation, but the data shows that does not happen.

However, it is true that in childhood there are experiences that leave a deep imprint on people. Childhood verbal abuse is one such phenomenon which, if repeated systematically for several weeks or several months, can leave a deep imprint on our identity.

But … how does this process happen for a few words to change us? Below, we’ll see what the logic is behind it all.

    Childhood verbal abuse: why it leaves its mark

    There are many types of violence beyond physical violence. In part, aggression has a psychological component that should not be overlooked. However, it is sometimes forgotten that just as any act of direct violence is an attack on the dignity of the victim, so are insults and expressions of contempt.

    If verbal aggression is used, it is precisely because it has an effect that goes beyond the transmission of ideas.. It has an emotional impact. And the emotional impact of verbal abuse on boys and girls is articulated through two distinct processes. Let’s see.

      Prioritizing the negative

      As victims, we are particularly sensitive to stimuli that can be interpreted as an attack. In general, we value the negative aspects of life more than the positive aspects. For example, it has been shown that after a verbal attack, the use of compliments made afterwards does not serve to reverse the negative effects of the attack.

      The above makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As our survival comes first, so does our nervous system prioritizes information about danger signals, Or signs of a possible situation in which we are at a disadvantage. Therefore, insults have been shown to have a much greater psychological impact than praise or flowers.

      Likewise, our memory also stores information about unpleasant or negative experiences more diligently. This allows us to take these facts into account so as not to repeat them and to look for danger signs in the present from this data.

      Verbal abuse is so simple and easy to perform that once it starts to be used it is very easy to relapse. This causes the boys and girls who are victims to have, like first-hand information stored in your memory, Many memories related to insults and similar objects.

      Identity formation

      Childhood is a busy time, even if it doesn’t seem like it. The brain undergoes many changes in no time, however. there are also changes of a psychological type, not only in the neurobiological stratum.

      In the first few years of life, self-image is formed, the concept of self that will influence how we create expectations about our abilities, personality, and possible successes in life.

      When verbal abuse occurs, as we have seen, much of the information about yourself that is at hand is emotionally linked to unpleasant, stressful, or even frightening times. It is not only that when we think about ourselves we think about the content of these insults, but also that the discomfort we are experiencing right now is evoked by the memory, which we are experiencing for the second time (well than generally a little less intense path).

      To put it another way, childhood is that stage of life when our ideas are most sensitive to the influence of the environment, which is why something as disruptive and violent as verbal abuse penetrates deep into our thoughts and, once it has affected self-concept, it is very easy to maintain this influence and spill over to self-esteem.

      So, any sign that one may be an unwanted person is magnified and may become obsessive for the little one, and something similar may occur upon reaching adulthood.


        We should give more importance to experiences which, although they do not involve physical violence, compromise the self-esteem and self-conception of young people. The brain is very sensitive to changes during the first stage of lifeAnd that is why verbal abuse compromises how it works when it comes to thinking about yourself.

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