Study shows yelling at toddlers makes them act up



By Betsy Stein

Parent’s who yell at their young children are more likely to have toddlers who act out and become easily upset, according to a study published recently in the journal Development and Psychopathology.


Researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Social Learning Center and other institutions collected data in 10 states from 361 families linked by adoption. Both birth parents and adoptive families were included in the study to compare genetic and environmental circumstances and how they impact the child’s behavior.

The study followed children at age 9, 18 and 27 months of age and found that adoptive parents who had a tendency to over-react had a significant effect on their children’s behavior. The parents who were quick to anger when the child tested age-appropriate limits or made mistakes had children who had more temper tantrums than normal for their age, the study showed.

“This is an age where children are prone to test limits and boundaries,” said lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at OSU-Cascades. “However, research consistently shows that children with elevated levels of negative emotionality during these early years have more difficulties with emotion regulation and tend to exhibit more problem behavior when they are of school age.”

Genetics also played a role as was seen by children who were at genetic risk of negative emotionality from their birth mothers, but were raised in a low-stress or less-reactive environment, the study determined.

Toddlerhood is a challenging time marked by a child’s increasing mobility and independence but the way parents adapt to this time can have an impact on how their child will develop, Lipscomb said.

“Parents’ ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident and not over-react is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior,” she said. “You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions.”