Baby’s First Profanity

by Rachel Baker on April 27, 2014

It turns out kids are swearing more than they did in the 1980s…but adults are too.

Cool study, check it out.

Most parents remember their child’s first word, and that’s not just because that word is often “daddy” or “mommy.” “Baabaa,” “bye” or the ominous “uh-oh” can also be a baby’s initial step into the world of words. But how many parents, I wonder, remember when their child first offered them a four-lettered linguistic gift?

A study published last year in the American Journal of Psychology collected “data about the emergence of adult like swearing in children.” The authors, Timothy Jay and Kristin Jay, recorded observations of children ages 1 through 12 and adults using taboo utterances, which “were described as offensive words and phrases, insults or name calling, and clinical terms, as well as abusive expressions.”

The study found that, overall, boys had a slightly larger repertoire of bad words than girls (95 compared to 80). But that repertoire varied by age. By age 3 or 4, girls were using 40 taboo words while boys were using 34; but among 7- and 8-year-olds, boys were using 45, and the number of bad words girls were using slipped down to 25.

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