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More harm than good

Yelling at adolescents is counter-productive, a new study finds.

If children in some parts of the world were once required to be "seen and not heard", one might now have to apply that same piece of advice to frustrated parents attempting to discipline their errant teenagers.

A new study published by thejournal Child Development has found that harsh verbal discipline meted out by a parent will actually aggravate teenagers' behaviour, instead of improving it.

Researchers tracked more than 1,000 US children, most of them middle-class, over a two-year period, and found that 13-year-olds who were shouted at by their parents were more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms and low self-esteem in the following year.

Adolescence is a time of rapid physical and cognitive change, when not listening, defying curfews and hanging out with questionable friends are all part of the growing-up experience.

The burden of finding and using industrial quantities of both care and patience naturally rests with parents, who must summon up a sophisticated response to each crisis. This study will only confirm what many parents have learnt, some of them the hard way: shouting about your frustrations rarely gets your voice heard.

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