Swearing emerges by age two and becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12. By the time children enter school, they have a working vocabulary of 30-40 offensive words.

The Science of Swearing

Why would a psychological scientist study swearing? Expertise in such an area has different practical significance inside and outside the community of psychological science. Outside the scientific community, expertise on taboo language is justification for frequent consultation about contemporary issues that are perennial: Is swearing harmful? Should children be allowed to swear? Is our swearing getting worse? One of us has been interviewed over 3,000 times by various media with respect to the questions above, as well as those about the use of taboo words in television, advertising, professional sports, radio, music, and film. In addition to consultation with mass media, expert testimony has been needed in cases involving sexual harassment,… Continue Reading (7 minute read)

10 thoughts on “Swearing emerges by age two and becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12. By the time children enter school, they have a working vocabulary of 30-40 offensive words.”

  1. Nea777

    Yeah I’ve always thought that most kids “practice” their swearing in secret in elementary school, then in middle school use it with their friends, and by high school many know how to swear instinctively.

  2. 31spiders

    30-40 offensive words? I’m thinking I don’t know 30-40 offensive words (and high school was long ago)!

  3. immobilitynow

    I was working as a carpenter with some self proclaimed goods old mountain boys. We were erecting a 60 for wall from the ground with a crane when it ripped in half. I then heard the foulest language of the job. “gosh darn that wall went all oompy loompy on us.”

  4. gamercboy5

    This is a reason South Park has so much swearing in it. The idea was they wanted to make a show where kids actually talk like kids.

  5. TxSquib

    My kid at 2 years of age used “damn” in very proficient ways. “That damn table got in my way. I cant open the damn door.” “Damn” when shed drop her cup. And so on. Yeah.

  6. dirtyrango

    “You’re mother was a hamster, and your father wreaked of elderberry!”

  7. caalger

    I taught my son that when something good happens for you that you throw both hands in the air with fists and yell “TITTIES!”.

    My wife wasn’t amused.

  8. idevcg

    I did not swear at all until I was like 23. I felt uncomfortable just hearing profanity. Then I had a roomate who was crazy (like, literally crazy, not as in “I don’t like them” crazy) who would randomly shout nonsensical profanity at any point during the 24-hour cycle (could go on for an hour at 3am or 12pm or 8pm or 7am etc)

    And then the habit of swearing kind of burned into me a bit. I hate it, but it’s hard to completely get rid of it now.

  9. Magyarharcos

    Only 30-40? Pfft, buncha amateurs, lol

  10. Dyolf_Knip

    We set up my daughter (10) on Facebook Messenger app through our own account so she could chat with her friends. More important than ever with Covid. We noticed that one friend really dove headfirst into the freedom to swear all she likes.

    For ours, we try to stress that they aren’t bad words, and they certainly won’t be *punished* by us for using them (no guarantees about teachers and the like). Just that they’re not generally appropriate for kids. Try to keep the appeal of the forbidden off of them.

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