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Why verbal abuse during childhood marks us

Why verbal abuse during childhood marks us

May 18, 2024

There are certain myths about childhood according to which what happens to us during the first years of life determines who we will be in our adulthood. For example, many people believe that the personality of parents "sticks" to their sons and daughters because of coexistence, but the data show that this does not happen.

However, it is true that in childhood there are experiences that leave a deep impression on people. Verbal abuse in childhood is one of those phenomena that, if it is repeated systematically for several weeks or months, they can leave a deep impression on our identity.

But ... in what way does this process occur by which some words change us? Next we will see what is the logic behind all this.

  • Related article: "Verbal aggression: keys to understanding this violent attitude"

Verbal abuse during childhood: why it leaves its mark

There are many types of violence beyond physical violence. In part, aggressions have a psychological component that should not be overlooked. However, sometimes we forget that in the same way in which any act of direct violence is an attack against the dignity of the victim, the same happens with insults and expressions of contempt.

If verbal aggression is used, it is precisely because it has an effect that goes beyond transmitting ideas . It has an emotional impact. And the emotional impact that verbal abuse has on children is articulated through two differentiated processes. Let's see them

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The prioritization of the negative

As victims, we are especially sensitive to stimuli that can be interpreted as an attack. In general, we give more importance to the negative aspects of life than to the positive ones. For example, it has been seen that after having made a verbal attack, the use of compliments made later does not serve to reverse the negative effects of the attack.

The above makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As our survival comes first, in our nervous system we prioritizes information regarding danger signals , or the signs of a possible situation in which we are at a disadvantage. Therefore, it has been proven that insults have a psychological impact far superior to praise or compliments.

In the same way, 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 signs of danger in the present from these data.

The verbal abuse is so simple and so easy to perform that once you have started using it is very easy to relapse into it. This makes children victimized by him, as first-hand information stored in your memory , many memories related to insults and similar elements.

The formation of identity

Childhood is a turbulent time, although it may not seem so. The brain undergoes a lot of modifications in a short time, but there are also psychological changes, not only in the neurobiological stratum .

In the first years of life, self-image is formed, the concept of oneself that will influence the way in which we create expectations about our abilities, personality and possible life achievements.

When verbal abuse occurs, as we have seen, much of the information about oneself that one has at hand is emotionally linked to unpleasant, stressful or even fearful moments. It is not only that when we think about ourselves we think about the content of these insults, but also that the discomfort we experience at those moments is evoked by memory, we experience it a second time (although usually in a somewhat less intense way).

To put it in some way, childhood is that stage of life in which our ideas are more sensitive to the influence of the environment, and that is why something as disruptive and violent as verbal abuse penetrates deeply into our thoughts and, once it has affected self-concept, it is very easy for this influence to be maintained and to have repercussions on self-esteem.

So, any sign that one can be undesirable is magnified and can obsess the little one or the little one, and something similar can happen when they reach adulthood.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity): what is it?"


We should give more importance to the experiences that, despite not involving physical violence, compromise the self-esteem and self-concept of young people. The brain is very sensitive to changes during the first stage of life , and that is why verbal abuse compromises its functioning when it comes to thinking about oneself.

How Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects You In Adulthood (May 2024).

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