Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.24 15 Jun 2021


Share this article


A child using a swear word is usually met with a swift scolding from a parent - but one US academic says swearing is something that can actually be beneficial to a child.

It's something that can help relieve stress, as well as strengthen relationships with friends - not to mention help children learn more about language in general.

Michael Adams - Provost Professor of English at Indiana University in the US - spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about why a scolding isn't always the correct response.

Advertisement

Here's why swearing can actually be beneficial for your child

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

   

He said: "I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s absolutely no reason for [children] not to swear ever, or that maybe adults should encourage swearing. It’s not quite that.

“But children are speakers on one hand, and also developing emotional responses to the world. Swearing allows us to do a couple of important things.

“There’s a little bit of risk. If you use it with friends… [in taking] that risk you can establish some intimacy. You’re with people willing to take that risk or break that taboo, and you trust each other differently as a result of that.

“The second thing is it does relieve stress - there’s good scientific reason to believe that now. That can be a reasonably healthy thing for them to do, as long as they learn when and where to swear."

Adams says children are “inevitably” going to make mistakes along the way, and there are definitely some contexts - such as schools - where they shouldn’t be using profanity.

Nonetheless, he believes swearing can actually be something articulate, and research has even shown swearing can be positively correlated with intelligence.

He explained: "You’re more likely to swear more the more intelligent you are - which sounds counter-intuitive, but when you think about it people who are really intelligent are always negotiating their way through difficult conversational situations.

"It’s not a question of anything goes… the context is going to guide whether it’s a good time to swear.

"That’s one of the difficult things about learning how to use language anyway - it’s something adolescents need to experiment with… as they figure out how to make the best social use of language.”

He said children are people too, and they're likely using bad language in a bid to understand it or use it properly.

For parents, meanwhile, a child using a swear word can be an opportunity to sit down and talk about what the word and its use actually mean.

Adams suggested: “I think sometimes a little less reaction and a little more conversation would be a better way of dealing with swearing, than just a swift ‘it’s always wrong’ answer."

He added that telling a child swearing is always wrong is a "parental lie", as there are social situations and contexts where swearing is acceptable.

Main image: File photo. Image by Ana Krach from Pixabay

Share this article


Read more about

Parenting Swearing

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

Newstalk Breakfast

Newstalk Breakfast

07:00-09:00

Share

Up next

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on