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Children Who Swear

  • R. L. Dawson
Chapter

Abstract

Most children at some time or other pick up swear words and go through a phase of using them profusely and, all too often, in inappropriate situations. Most, however, pass quickly through this phase and although, like most adults, they may continue to swear they do so mainly to relieve feelings of tension and frustration and only then in situations where such language is uncensured and inoffensive to those present. There is, indeed, a developmental pattern to the swear words that children use. Between the ages of around four to seven years children tend to use words associated with excrement (even indirectly in some cases; e.g., knickers). Often the delight in using them stems not only from the knowledge that they are forbidden, but also from a fairly precise knowledge of their meaning. The next stage is the use of sexual obscenities and the delight in using these stems from their reference to forbidden things or their power to affect or provoke adults, rather than from an awareness of their precise meaning. Finally, older children may use blasphemies widely and openly; e.g. Jesus Christ! There is much disagreement among adults as regards the use and nature of such blasphemies and a whole area of uncertainty surrounds them. When using these words older children are often testing out their positions vis-à-vis adults within an area of perceived controversy, but it frequently represents a growing awareness of what is or is not acceptable.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1985

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  • R. L. Dawson

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