Merely

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I’m a med student entering psychiatry and I admittedly don’t know much psychology yet unfortunately. I had a patient in passing ask me if it’s bad for her kid if her husband swears in front of the kids. Her kids are 1,3 and 6. I wasn’t really sure if there was any literature on this and felt bad I couldn’t provide a clear answer. Is there any data on this? My psychiatry attending didn’t really know so I thought I’d ask my psychology colleagues since you guys probably know more about childhood development and stuff like that. Thx
 

MAClinician

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Children are sponges. They pick up everything you say or do, especially in the toddler to latency ages. Will swearing irreparably harm them? Probably not. I don’t know a single parent who hasn’t accidentally dropped an F-bomb or other word in front of their kids. BUT, if those children are in daycare/preschool/school and start frequently repeating what mom or Dad say, mom and dad better be prepared that staff will bring that to their attention. Especially if it causes conflicts with another child, or leads to the child being defiant or aggressive more so than peers. Following rules, being respectful, being kind, being a good friend, etc are all lessons being taught at that age. Kids in large group settings who can’t do those things, are more likely to face some kind of consequence. Mom and dad are better served teaching their kids to identify what they are feeling than to repeat swears or other negative behaviors. A kid occasionally repeating a swear word is not a big deal in most settings.
 

tr

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Are we talking about swearing in front of the kids, or at them?

Like, Dad stubs his toe and drops an F bomb? No biggie, just be prepared to hear it coming right back out of the kid's mouth, most likely in preschool or some other humiliating public setting.

Or is this Dad getting out of control and routinely screaming epithets at the kids when they do typically irritating kid things? That is most certainly harmful (verbal/emotional abuse in childhood is associated with the development of insecure attachment styles and increased risk for mood and anxiety disorders).
 

erg923

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Bad for her kids in what way. Behaviorally? Very likely I would say, as language is a shared behavior and asset within a family, So you would have to start wondering what are they not saying/communicating when the kids just start saying **** or **** you, or **** this? And teachers and principles don't usually like it when their students curse, right? That could then also set up a "do as i say not as i do" kinda discipline/household. Probably not optimal. Psychiatrically? I presume not but then would have you wondering what else dad was doing in front of them?
 

Therapist4Chnge

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Bad for her kids in what way. Behaviorally? Very likely I would say, as language is a shared behavior and asset within a family, So you would have to start wondering what are they not saying/communicating when the kids just start saying **** or **** you, or **** this? And teachers and principles don't usually like it when their students curse, right? That could then also set up a "do as i say not as i do" kinda discipline/household. Probably not optimal. Psychiatrically? I presume not but then would have you wondering what else dad was doing in front of them?
He has a balloon show that I would consider a bit too avant garde for the <10 crowd. Sometimes it’s okay to just make some balloon dogs and call it a day.
 

PSYDR

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Well, the developmental literature shows a very clear divide in academic performance between school aged children who have higher expressive vocabularies and those that have lower expressive vocabularies . There is also significant literature indicating that there is parental transmission of said vocabularies through both reading and conversation. Then there is significant literature in both US and UK social science that shows a correlation between social class and swearing, which shows that unless you are UK high class (i.e., listed in peerage), swearing lowers the perception of where you belong in SES.


Just guessing: Parents swear more. Kids immitate. Because of the ubiquity of uses of swear words, they use fewer words in their expressive vocabular. Then swears shows people that you belong in a lower social class. Guessing that lowers your potential social mobility .
 

erg923

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Well, the developmental literature shows a very clear divide in academic performance between school aged children who have higher expressive vocabularies and those that have lower expressive vocabularies . There is also significant literature indicating that there is parental transmission of said vocabularies through both reading and conversation. Then there is significant literature in both US and UK social science that shows a correlation between social class and swearing, which shows that unless you are UK high class (i.e., listed in peerage), swearing lowers the perception of where you belong in SES.


Just guessing: Parents swear more. Kids immitate. Because of the ubiquity of uses of swear words, they use fewer words in their expressive vocabular. Then swears shows people that you belong in a lower social class. Guessing that lowers your potential social mobility .
I don't trust people who don't curse...at least some. Even in professional settings. Probably the way i was raised? But I turned out alright.
 
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erg923

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If you end up work for the VA for any period of time, '**** that noise" will probably be a common phrase in your vocabulary.
 

PSYDR

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@erg923 There's a difference between the technical answer, and what one does in their real life.
 

clausewitz2

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As a former linguist, the idea that taboo words are intrinsically harmful is very much out of keeping with what we know about language acquisition.

I am sure there is a statistical correlation between sweating in front of children and SES, but I imagine the association between vocabulary size and sweating frequency breaks down completely once you control for education.

In general surely children can be expected to learn there all sorts of behaviors grownups are allowed to produce that they are not - drinking coffee, handling steak knives, driving, etc. Why exactly should verbal behavior be different?
 

PSYDR

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As a former linguist, the idea that taboo words are intrinsically harmful is very much out of keeping with what we know about language acquisition.

I am sure there is a statistical correlation between sweating in front of children and SES, but I imagine the association between vocabulary size and sweating frequency breaks down completely once you control for education.

In general surely children can be expected to learn there all sorts of behaviors grownups are allowed to produce that they are not - drinking coffee, handling steak knives, driving, etc. Why exactly should verbal behavior be different?
To be clear:

1) there’s studies from the USA and UK which show an association between ses and class (respectively) and swear use frequency.

2) In the UK, the association falls apart at the peerage level (I.e., inherited titles).


3) Then there are studies showing that kids whose parents swear more, tend to swear more. Education doesn’t predict swear frequency. Ses does.

At least in my read of the literature.

For a linguist you sure like to conflate things.
 

clausewitz2

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To be clear:

1) there’s studies from the USA and UK which show an association between ses and class (respectively) and swear use frequency.

2) In the UK, the association falls apart at the peerage level (I.e., inherited titles).


3) Then there are studies showing that kids whose parents swear more, tend to swear more. Education doesn’t predict swear frequency. Ses does.

At least in my read of the literature.

For a linguist you sure like to conflate things.

1) I explicitly said I agreed that a correlation certainly exists between SES/class and swearing. Not a point I am trying to argue with you, I agree in fact. Whether being regarded as coming from a lower SES is intrinsically harmful to children is a very fraught question that has a load of classist assumptions that are very easy to stumble over so i'll put that to the side.

2) upthread there is an argument about how swearing is suggestive of a lack of communication ability or modeling or linguistic resources. It was suggested this would be detrimental to children. I think if you read my post it is fairly clear that I am saying that if you control for SES (which we agree is a correlate!) then I am claiming it is highly unlikely that you could demonstrate a relationship between swearing and linguistic ability/vocabulary/communicative efficacy or any other proxy thereof

No conflation at all, drawing a distinction in fact.
 

PSYDR

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1) I explicitly said I agreed that a correlation certainly exists between SES/class and swearing. Not a point I am trying to argue with you, I agree in fact. Whether being regarded as coming from a lower SES is intrinsically harmful to children is a very fraught question that has a load of classist assumptions that are very easy to stumble over so i'll put that to the side.

2) upthread there is an argument about how swearing is suggestive of a lack of communication ability or modeling or linguistic resources. It was suggested this would be detrimental to children. I think if you read my post it is fairly clear that I am saying that if you control for SES (which we agree is a correlate!) then I am claiming it is highly unlikely that you could demonstrate a relationship between swearing and linguistic ability/vocabulary/communicative efficacy or any other proxy thereof

No conflation at all, drawing a distinction in fact.
You did though. You conflated three issues. But like you have said, I don’t want to bring up old stuff.