Children Swearing Earlier, Studies Show

At the Sociolinguistics Symposium in the U.K. this month, psychology professor and specialist in profanity research Timothy Jay says children are using profanity at an earlier age than has been recorded in at least 30 years of research. Finding that children’s swearing takes off primarily between ages three and four, Jay says kids as young as two are “dropping f-bombs.” Jay also refers to two-thirds of parents who have rules about swearing but still swear themselves, saying profanity is knit deeply into a person’s neuropsychology. Scott Schieman, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto blames politics, saying, “There’s a real coarseness right now in U.S. political culture. It’s not a conversation; it’s a rant. Broadly speaking, that sets up an overall tone where you have this constant aggressiveness.” And sociologist Benet Davetian, a leading civility expert at the University of Prince Edward Sound, remarked that boorish and profane behavior by celebrities like Mel Gibson, Kanye West, and tennis star Serena Williams are celebrated by the public, almost entertaining them. Jay warns that children are “little vacuums,” adopting these behaviors and swearing “as soon as they can speak” in some cases.