Is Swearing Healthy?

“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.”

~ Mel Brooks

Warning: This article contains strong language that may offend some readers. If you feel that they might pollute your mind, please refrain from reading any further.

Ever pull out the big guns? I mean, those four-letter ones, and shoot obscenities from the mouth that can be heard within a 10-mile radius? Drop a hail of F-bombs like it’s Dresden in 1944?

You bet I have. Many times.

I use them as a necessary evil to prevent me from saying something really bad.

You know, those stressful moments when the kids are driving you up the wall, your hubby has you seeing red, or you accidentally break a glass or bang your knee on the coffee table. That’s when I let loose with a rage-filled symphony of profanities that would make a sailor blush.

And boy, does it ever feel liberating to unleash those scorching curse words without any self-imposed limitations. It’s as free as scratching an infuriating itch or relieving a full bladder.

The First Time

I still remember the very first time I was caught swearing. It was a moment that stuck with me, a lesson learned at a young age.

Walking to school with my mom and older sister, we amused ourselves by finding words that rhymed with “duck.” Innocent and carefree, we didn’t anticipate the reaction we would receive when we reached the letter “F.”

My mom’s response was strong and immediate, scolding us and insisting that we never utter that word again. It was portrayed as something wicked, something only the evil spoke. Confused and without an explanation, I couldn’t comprehend why such a simple word could rile her up so much. But that incident left a lasting impression on me.

Why Do We Swear?

It’s a question that has intrigued humanity for ages.

Today, profanity has become a part of our everyday language, with about 0.7% of the words we use being swear words.¹ It’s something we all do, whether we like to admit it or not. But have you ever wondered why?

1. Swearing Is Cathartic

We swear often as a way to express our emotions (e.g. pain, frustration, happiness, joy, surprise). By releasing emotional tension, venting, reducing stress and helping with pain management², is there a better placebo effect for stress relief? Just imagine all the expletives being hurled around a hospital’s delivery ward. However, if profanity is overused, it doesn’t have the same effect. People who curse excessively, up to 60 times a day don’t get any pain relief from it because the emotional response in the brain weakens after repeated exposure.³

2. Acts As A Rage Concentrate

It gets the point across by cranking up the mean factor. Yet if you curse at someone who can’t hear you, you’re just letting off steam.

3. Group Solidarity

Swearing among members of the same group strengthens bonds, eases tensions and equalizes members with different levels of power and responsibility. Ritual insults among friends are not abusive but a sign of belonging to the group.

4. Makes You Appear More Honest And Authentic

The more an individual swears, the more honest they are likely to be.4 It also adds emotion and urgency to otherwise neutral sentences.

Expletives And Car Rides

In the presence of my kids or any kids for that matter, I try to censor the urge to purge as many curse words as possible out from my potty-mouth. If I make it, I would run into the nearest room, shut the door and scream, “What the FUCK?!” Or with rising intensity, “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK!”, while simultaneously stomping my feet like a 4-year old who doesn’t get her way.

One time, I was caught off guard when I was nearly hit by a manic driver while on the highway. And where else can you release your rage and let your true self shine than in the privacy of your own car?

And boy, did those curse valves go off then. Despite blaring music and loud talking, my kids, seated at the back of our spacious van still heard me shout, “What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?!”

It didn’t take long for them to witness my vulnerability, realizing that while I had control of the car, my mouth and mind were a different story entirely.

My 8-year-old daughter, at the time, caught on instantly, observing my shocked reaction as words erupted from me like scorching volcanic ash. Though she didn’t fully grasp the meaning behind the vulgarity, she asked with innocence, “Did you say, ‘fuck’?’”

In that agonizing moment, my years of teaching honesty, integrity, and authenticity seemed to vanish as I denied everything, resembling a child caught red-handed stealing candy. Attempting to cover up my recent choice of language, I stumbled and mumbled incoherently, but it was too late.

Spewing expletives around my children typically fills me with overwhelming guilt, as if the world is coming to an end. I feel terrible about my parenting blunder. After all, society chastises those who curse in front of their kids.

However, once I managed to regain composure, I apologized for my uncensored outburst of anger and admitted to my daughter that I used those words because I was frustrated. It was wrong for me to deny it. Surprisingly, she simply responded, “Oh, I get frustrated too.” And just like that, the conversation ended.

Censoring The Cuss

Why do parents, like myself, feel the need to censor their language when young kids are around?

Swearing is often seen as inappropriate, disrespectful, and goes against good family values. We worry that if we utter a curse word in front of our children, they will follow suit and embarrass us in inappropriate situations.

As adults, we strive to be role models, but we were also raised to believe that swearing was unacceptable.

Even my husband, who refrains from using mild words like ‘crap’, scolds me for swearing in the presence of young people. However, I don’t use profanities excessively, and I never direct them at my kids.

According to Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, society’s aversion to swearing stems from the influence of organized religion, which sought to control language. This belief assumes that children are innocent and must be shielded from this so-called harmful language.5

Parents believe that by sheltering their kids from the “bad stuff,” they will prevent them from turning out bad themselves.

Swearing As A Life Tool

Did you know that swearing can actually be a helpful tool in life?

Contrary to popular belief, swearing around children is not the same as swearing at them. Swearing at children can be abusive and have a psychological impact, but simply swearing around them is different.

Benjamin Bergen, a cognitive science professor at the University of California, explains that children’s minds are resilient to profanity. Like any other words, profanity can be used positively or abusively. Words like ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ can serve as simple expressions of emotions, neither inherently abusive nor anything else.

Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that exposing children to everyday four-letter words causes any direct harm. It doesn’t lead to increased aggression, hinder vocabulary development, or numb emotions. In fact, swearing can be a valuable tool for children to express their emotions accurately, which is an essential skill when interacting with others.

By shielding children from these words, we deny them the necessary tools and education about the realities and challenges of life. It’s important for them to be prepared for when life throws them a curveball.

Language Is All About Context

Language is a powerful tool, shaped by the context in which it is used. The words we choose to insult others gain their strength from the situation at hand.

However, we hold the true power over these words. The more attention we give to them, the more power they hold.

Swear words, in essence, are merely words, devoid of any inherent authority. It is our perception and reaction that gives them their weight.

Hurting others with our words or allowing them to make us feel bad inside can transform these words into something negative. But we must remember that most words are neutral; it is the intention and manner in which they are uttered that determines their impact.6

Just as we teach our children to use hammers for construction rather than harm, as responsible parents, we must educate them on the distinction between “bad” words and the disrespectful use of language.

By instilling in them the appropriate use of swear words and emphasizing that words are tools for self-expression and not weapons of harm, we empower our children to think critically, eliminate shame, and embrace love, respect, tolerance, and acceptance. Ultimately, it is not what is said that matters most, but rather the reasons behind our words. 

Slurs vs. Profanity

In the realm of offensive language, slurs that target race, gender, or sexuality hold immense derogatory power. While they may not fall under the category of swear words, studies have revealed the harmful impact slurs have on children. Shockingly, exposure to homophobic slurs, for instance, has led to heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Holy Sheep

Incidentally, my teenage son never gets into long car rides with me now without bringing his sister’s stuffed sheep with him. Whenever he senses that my frustrations with other drivers are about to arise, he thrusts the sheep next to me and says, “Holy Sheep, is here to help.” Though not exactly the same indulgence as verbally slathering on the raunch, it does momentarily put a smile on my face and breaks the urge for me to freely spray my verbal arsenal everywhere. At least I now know that if I do let out a few curse words in front of my kids, it won’t corrupt them.

Just Relax

Let’s face it, parenting can be tough. We all slip up sometimes and let a swear word slip in front of our kids.

But here’s the truth: it’s not the end of the world. Swearing won’t corrupt their minds or ruin their future. As long as we’re not using foul language to attack or insult others, a few F-bombs won’t harm them.

Instead of obsessively sheltering our little ones from swearing, let’s take a different approach. Teach them about the language, when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Because here’s the thing, it’s not the four-letter words themselves that matter most, but the words that surround them.

So, relax and let’s navigate this parenting journey with a little more understanding.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as a “bad” word? Do you ever swear in front of kids?



1 Steinmetz, Katy. “Nine Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Swear Words.” Time, Time, 10 Apr. 2013,
2 Stephens, R, et al. “Swearing as a Response to Pain.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Aug. 2009,
3 Stephens, R, and C Umland. “Swearing as a Response to Pain-Effect of Daily Swearing Frequency.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2011,
4 Wood, Jennifer M. “No Sh*t: People Who Swear More May Also Be More Honest, Study Says.” Mental Floss, 6 Jan. 2017,
5 Rousseau, Steve. “What Would Happen If You Just Let Kids Swear?” Watching Sandwiches Getting Made In Factories Is Oddly Satisfying, Digg, 14 Sept. 2017,
6 Lindhardt, S. “How to Teach Your Kids about Swear Words & Encourage a Respectful Vocabulary.” Miss Poppins, Aug. 2013,