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When Do Kids Start Swearing?

Researchers suggest that swearing develops in the same manner as other parts of vocabulary. Children seem to know all of the same swear words as their same-aged peers, but, at what age do children start to actually use curse words?

The moment a child joins a conventional school, they have a working vernacular of 30 to 40 offensive words and research has uncovered that children commence cursing around age two that it becomes more adult-like by ages 11 or 12.

The Science Behind Swearing

While it may seem arbitrary for a psychological scientist to study swearing, the expertise in the said field does have some practical application, especially within the field of psychological science.

Parents would often ask themselves if swearing is harmful, or if they should permit their children to swear. But the fact of the matter is, taboo language is seen all across different forms of media, and the use of these words in television, advertising, radio, and film can influence the younger generation. (Source: Psychological Science)

Taboo Behavior in the Field of Psychological Sciences

More often than not, swearing is thought to be a behavior out of the scope of psychological science. But because swearing is highly influenced by several variables that can be quantified, scientists and linguists have the best approach to it. However, there seems to be a lack of emphasis on the topic. A more domain-centered approach to the study would be ideal to accommodate taboo behaviors like swearing. (Source: Psychological Science)

Is Swearing Harmful and Problematic?

In cases of discrimination or even sexual harassment, certain speech can be deemed harmful. But it is also important to identify the cause of the swearing. Swearing can happen with heightened emotion and may yield a negative output, or even a positive one, depending on the context it is used in.

We know this because we have recorded over 10,000 episodes of public swearing by children and adults, and rarely have we witnessed negative consequences. We have never seen public swearing lead to physical violence. Most public uses of taboo words are not in anger; they are innocuous or produce positive consequences.

Timothy Jay and Krisitn Janschewitz

(Source: Psychological Science)

Is Swearing Good For You?

According to science, yes it is good for you and primates do it too. Apparently swearing not only masks pain but it builds better relationships.
While swearing is often regarded as a lack of civility, Emma Bryne begs to differ. In her book Swearing is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, she reveals that profanity actually has several positive virtues. Believe it or not, people tend to trust you more when you curse and it even promotes teamwork.

My first memory of being punished for swearing was calling my little brother a four-letter word, twat, which I thought was just an odd pronunciation of the word twit. I must have been about eight at the time; my brother was still pre-school. My mother froze, then belted me round the ear. That made me realize that some words had considerably more power than others, and that the mere shift in a vowel was enough to completely change the emotional impact of a word.

Emma Bryne, Author, Swearing is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language

Byrne further explains how her relationship with swearing was complicated, but as she got older, she found out how beneficial swearing was for her, especially in terms of relationships she’s built with her peers. (Source: National Geographic)

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