When Called Negative Names, Children Become Them

negative namesA recent study has confirmed what many have known for a very long time: calling a child negative names, regardless of the intention, increases the likelihood that they will become that very thing.[1] For example, psychologists at UCLA have shown that girls who are called fat by close relatives, friends, classmates, or teachers before the age of 10 are more likely to become obese later in life.1

The recent study examined 2,379 girls living in Washington, D.C., Northern California, and Cincinnati.1 Fifty-eight percent of those girls reported being told they were too fat at, or before, the age of 10.1 The girls were weighed and had their height measured at the beginning of the study, and again nine years later.1 The study found that the girls who had been told they were fat were 1.66 times more likely to become obese by the age of 19.1 The study also found that more people who told the girl she was fate, the more likely she was to become obese.1

According to the study’s co-author, Jeffrey Hunger, the negative association causes the girls to anticipate the effects of weight stigma: they began to unconsciously exhibit behaviors that would lead them to experience those effects.1

This phenomenon works on two levels: physical and psychological.1 Obesity is an example of physical manifestation, but psychological manifestations are even more common.1 For example: you’re a loser, you can’t do anything right, you don’t get along with anyone, you are such a problem, you are a failure, and you never listen.1

Children do not have the mental and emotional capacity to refute negative messages.1 Instead, they are more like sponges and soak up everything they are told.1 When they receive negative messages, they believe them to be true.1 As a child, their job is to act accordingly; therefore, they try to live up to their parents’ and others’ expectations of them—even if they are negative.1 The more they do, the more negative messages they receive that confirm how true those messages are.1 It is a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle.1

Then, many begin to revolt against all of the negativity.1 So hurt and resentful of it, many vow to fight it and prove them wrong.1 However, resistance is needed, and they need to be strong.1

[1] Bundrant, M. (2014). Children Become the Negative Names They Are Called. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 28, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2014/05/children-become-the-negative-names-they-are-called/

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