Psychoanalysis Unit


Words Matter: Impact and Prevention of Childhood Verbal Abuse

11 April 2024, 10:00 am–5:00 pm

Words Matter Header Image

Located online via Zoom livestream.

Event Information

Open to



Psychoanalysis Unit


Childhood verbal abuse can result in substantial harmful impacts on children’s social-emotional development that can have long-term mental and physical health impacts throughout their lifetime. While substantial attention and investments have been made toward the prevention of childhood sexual and physical abuse, demonstrating significant declines in their prevalence, there is currently no such focus given to childhood verbal abuse, which is highly pervasive.
This one-day event with the World Health Organization's (WHO) UK-based Collaborating Centres in Violence Prevention and Investment in Health and Wellbeing, together with University College London’s (UCL) Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, will bring together presentations from global experts in the study of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), neuroscience, developmental psychology, and public health to elucidate and promote discussions on unifying definitions, impact, societal cost burden, and prevention. 
The event will be chaired by Professor Peter Fonagy, Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL and Chief Executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, and Dr Manasi Kumar, Research Professor at the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Affiliate Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

All parts of the programme will be streamed online via Zoom and be in English only. 

View Event Programme

Main Presentations


Words Matter — The founder’s story 
Jessica Bondy, Founder Words Matter, UK 

Childhood verbal abuse as a maltreatment subtype: Exploring the unification of definitions and measures and future implications 
Professor Shanta R. Dube, Ph.D., MPH, Professor and Director, Master of Public Health Program, Department of Public Health in the Levine College of Health Sciences, Wingate University, US 

Prevalence and impact of verbal abuse and other forms of childhood adversity 
Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Research, and Innovation at Liverpool John Moores University and founder of WHO Collaborating Centre in Violence Prevention 

The Golden Gift — Developmental support to identify, activate and develop skills that contribute to constructive interaction 
Maria Aarts, Director and Founder of Marte Meo International, Eindhoven

Afternoon welcome and overview 
Dr Manasi Kumar, Research Professor at the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity, NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Affiliate Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Kenya 

Costs of inaction against childhood verbal abuse: Implications for society and the economy 
Professor Xiangming Fang, Professor & Director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy at China Agricultural University and the School of Public Health at Georgia State University 

Applying the Socio-Ecological Framework: Using data and evidence in practice and policymaking 
Professor Catherine Maternowska, Honorary Professor of Violence Prevention for Young People, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, UK and Jonathan Kifunda, Founder and Executive Director, Thubutu Africa Initiatives.

The neurobiological consequences of childhood verbal abuse 
Dr Martin Teicher, Ph.D., MD, Director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Moving from research to practice 
Dr Alexander Butchart, Unit Head, and Dr Berit Kieselbach, Technical Officer, Violence Prevention Unit, Social Determinants of Health Department, World Health Organization 


Registration is required to attend*. Registration will close at 09:00 GMT 11th April 2024.

Further information will be circulated closer to the date of the event, but please feel free to get in touch with events.psychoanalysis@ucl.ac.uk if you have any questions in the meantime.

*As part of registering for this event, the participant agrees to all registration details being shared with Words Matter (Registered Charity Number 1201281)


After the event itself a recording of the conference will be available to registered participants (on request) for 4 weeks 

Image Credit: kieferpix on iStock