What yelling does to a child's brain - Evidence Based Babies
breast feeding
grayscale photo of a boy crying

What yelling does to a child’s brain

Most of us were raised in a home where yelling at you as a child occurred frequently or even daily. It’s normal for us, but is what our parents did to us healthy? A lot of us are probably doing the same to our kids because we were raised that this is normal. I’m here to tell you that it’s not healthy. It wasn’t healthy for your parents to do it to you, and it isn’t healthy for you to do it to your kids now.

Each time you yell at your child, you’re causing a little more brain damage. Yes, you read that right, brain damage.

Now it’s probably safe to say that most of us would never want to cause our children any harm, especially something as severe as brain damage, which will have an effect on your child and who they are for the rest of their lives.

What happens to your child when you scream at them?

– It makes their behavior worse

Studies have found that when you scream at your child, instead of changing their behavior in a positive way, it actually causes their behavior to do the exact opposite.

One study found that mothers’ and fathers’ harsh verbal discipline at age 13 predicted an increase in adolescent conduct problems and depressive symptoms between ages 13 and 14.

– It can lead to depression

While most of us think that when you yell at your child and they get scared and cry, that it’s only temporary emotions, but that’s not the case. You see, the anxiety yelling causes can actually cause much deeper psychological issues for a child, even when they’re all grown up.

In one study that tracked behavioral problems of 13-year-olds who were yelled at, researchers found an uprising in depression symptoms. Many other studies also show a connection between emotional abuse (which yelling is classified as) and depression or anxiety. Not only can these symptoms lead to worse behavior, but it can even develop into self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse.

– It changes the way their brain develops

Studies have found that both yelling and spanking causes severe stress and trauma in children of all ages. Early stress and/or emotional abusive language towards children causes negative changes in the development of a child’s brain. It’s been found to have a noticeable physical difference in the parts of the brain responsible for processing sounds and language.

According to one new study, repeatedly getting angry, hitting, shaking or yelling at children are linked with smaller brain structures in adolescence. Previous studies have already shown that children who have experienced severe abuse have smaller prefrontal cortexes and amygdala. These two brain structures play a key role in emotional regulation and the emergence of anxiety and depression.

Yelling at your children can and will cause issues with your child’s brain development, causing serious complications for them not only as children, but as adults too.

How to stop yelling

It’s hard though, isn’t it? Not yelling that is. It’s what we’re all used to from our own parents. It’s hard to stay calm when a child is having a huge meltdown, screaming or even physically hurting you.

But here’s what you need to remember; they can’t help it. Their brains are still very underdeveloped, they can’t regulate their own emotions yet, they need you to help them and teach them how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. You, the adult on the other hand? You have a fully developed brain and should have the ability to regulate your own emotions. If you don’t, it’s time to get help. If not for you, then for your child.

Once you understand that children can’t help it, that it’s not their fault, you will be able to handle the situations better.

Regulate your own emotions. Pause and breathe before reacting, identify the emotion you may be feeling and understand why you’re triggered, accept your emotion, practice mindfulness, engage in positive self talk, look for positive emotions and then react calmly. This may all sound easier said than done, but once you learn to regulate your emotions in a healthy way, it will make your life much easier.

If you struggle with regulating your own emotions, it might be a good idea to look into getting therapy. There’s absolutely no shame in receiving the support you need to heal your trauma and learn the correct techniques to regulate your own emotions.

Once you’ve begun regulating your own emotions, you can help your child regulate their emotions as well. It’s important to remember that children can’t regulate their emotions on their own, they need your help. They need to co-regulate with you.

Yelling is not healthy. We as adults need to learn to heal our childhood trauma and how to regulate our own emotions so our children can grow up healthy, with the ability to regulate their own emotions in a healthy way so they won’t have any trauma they need to heal.

We don’t want to raise children who need to heal from their childhood. Next time you want to yell at your child, just remember, your kids and the health of their brains are up to you. What you do next matters.

Additional information and resources:

Exposure to parental verbal abuse is associated with increased gray matter volume in superior temporal gyrus

When Emotional Pain Becomes Physical: Adverse Childhood Experiences, Pain, and the Role of Mood and Anxiety Disorders

The Long-Term Health Consequences of Child Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, and Neglect: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Longitudinal Links Between Fathers’ and Mothers’ Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents’ Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms

Psychological stress in childhood and susceptibility to the chronic diseases of aging: moving toward a model of behavioral and biological mechanisms

Exploring the Relation of Harsh Parental Discipline with Child Emotional and Behavioral Problems by Using Multiple Informants. The Generation R Study

Prefrontal cortex and amygdala anatomy in youth with persistent levels of harsh parenting practices and subclinical anxiety symptoms over time during childhood


Please take note that all of the information provided on this website is for educational purposes only.

We take every effort to ensure that we stay up to date with the latest research and that we only provide you with the best possible evidence based information available.

Online information will never be a substitute for individual support by a qualified healthcare professional.

Evidence Based Babies is a supporter of the WHO International Code Of Marketing Of Breastmilk Substitutes (WHO code) and the WHO and UNICEF’S Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

© 2022 Created with Cyber Drive Technologies