Have you ever regretted swearing in front of a child? Because that’s what people around you have warned you about, fearing the child might pick up those expletives too.
You know you are supposed to watch your words in front of a child but is it possible to consciously maintain it all the time? Turns out swearing in the presence of children may not be that bad.
Benjamin Bergen, a professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego, and a linguist studying swearing and its impact on children, has concluded that there is a distinction between swearing and slurs, suggesting only the latter has a negative impact on children. Swearing at, not in front of, children is verbal abuse and takes a psychological toll.
Slurs, Bergen points out, have a bad affect on children who are less developed socially and cognitively. In an observational study, for instance, he found that children exposed to homosexual slurs showed symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Ordinary profanity, on the other hand, “causes any sort of direct harm: no increased aggression, stunted vocabulary, numbed emotions or anything else,” Bergen was quoted as saying. Taboo words used for humour did not affect children.
Bergen further suggests that instead of censoring one’s words, parents can actually explain the swear words they use and their appropriate use at the appropriate place.