What Are the Harmful Effects of Name-Calling in Adolescents?

By Dosser Handron
Adolescents are prone to name-calling, an abusive practice that can lead to depression.
Adolescents are prone to name-calling, an abusive practice that can lead to depression.

Verbal abuse is a prevalent problem in many families. Some members of this social unit have perfected the art of name-calling to the extent that even their victims remain speechless as they receive the abuse. Adolescents are prone to such mistreatment from different people: siblings, parents, schoolmates, friends and teachers. The effects of name calling -- and its associated dangers -- are social problems that need to be addressed by parents.


Name-calling can have devastating effects on the adolescent’s sense of worth. It's generally worse if the abuse comes from the parent. For example, if a parent labels the teen as a ‘’jerk," he is likely to believe the words. Growing up with such perceptions -- from people who should be his mentors -- lowers the self-esteem of the adolescent. The low confidence has detrimental effects in the overall life of the adolescent, and may affect future career progression.

Destroy Relationships

Name-calling can easily break strong relationships. Among siblings, it may trigger sibling rivalry, a situation that may lead to dysfunctional relationships among the adolescents. While envy is one of the reasons behind name-calling among peers, parents’ favoritism of one child can spur hatred from the other adolescents. Name-calling often becomes the resolute defense mechanism by such adolescents whenever they confront each other. It becomes difficult for such kids to trust people and resolve issues using sober conversations. With such poor integration skills, they may end up being anti-social individuals.


Parents who constantly call their children names should expect the tags to be expressed in the adolescents' school grades. Getting poor grades is a consequence of accepting the label administered by the parents. Name-calling may cause low concentration and a lack of ambition among the adolescents. With no one to impress with their good grades, the adolescents lack the motivation to improve in schoolwork. Name-calling from peers and classmates, however, can sometime challenge the student to work hard -- just to prove the ‘’haters’’ wrong. If the hard work does not bear fruits, the reality of the “labels” starts sinking in again and the adolescent may believe that the tags are a true reflection of his inabilities.


Adolescents undergo gradual development to adapt to the changing environment as they grow. In addition to physical changes, they attain skills to help them survive in the ‘’hostile’’ environment. According to the ‘’National Association of School Psychologist,’’ adolescents develop verbal skills and cognitive abilities to detect people’s vulnerabilities and attack them verbally. Constant teasing among the peers becomes a common occurrence. This, together with similar treatment from parents, can lead to depression in adolescents. The weight of the ‘’curse’’ words becomes a heavy burden for the adolescents to bear and depression may be the eventual consequence.

About the Author

Dosser Handron is a practicing psychologist and writer.She served as a columnist for the "Tides" and now contributes to various websites. Dosser holds a PhD in psychology from University of South Carolina.