Here’s why your tone of voice matters

Here’s why your tone of voice matters

Do you pay attention to your tone of voice when speaking with your teen? If not, you might want to start.

According to recent research published in Developmental Psychology, mothers who used a controlling voice when speaking with young teens saw a “significant impact on teenagers’ emotional, relational and behavioral intention responses.”

For the study, nearly 500 males and 500 females age 14-15 listened to recordings of mothers saying 30 different sentences in controlling, autonomy-supportive or neutral tones of voice.

The sentences included things like “You will read this book tonight,” “It’s time now to go to school,” and “You will do well on this assignment.”

The teens then completed a survey and were asked how they would react to the statements if their own mother said them.

The results: Motivational statements (ex: “You will do well on this assignment”) made in a controlling tone did not bode well with the teens, and autonomy-supportive tones led to more favorable outcomes.

Dr. Rebecca Mortland, a psychologist with Advocate Children’s Medical Group, says the findings highlight the importance of communication style in a parent-child relationship.

“Part of parenting is being self-aware and keeping your emotions in check,” she says. “The ‘autonomy-supportive’ communication style supports a parenting goal of fostering an environment that is most likely to provide a sense of competence and resilience.”

The researchers plan to conduct further studies to analyze how tone of voice affects physiological responses such as heart rate.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.