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Growing Up With Emotionally Immature Parents – 9 Signs

Growing up with emotionally immature parents can be challenging and happens in many homes.

These parents, often unintentionally, leave an indelible mark on their offspring’s emotional landscapes, with lasting consequences.

Occasionally, a glimmer of their desire for authentic connection may surface, enticing you to reach out. Yet, the closer you attempt to get, the more they retreat, maintaining a cautious distance from true intimacy.

This push-and-pull dynamic results in an emotionally unsatisfying and lonely relationship. While you may care for your parent, establishing a genuine connection remains elusive.

How can one navigate the complexities of growing up in such an environment, and what strategies can be employed to overcome the challenges?

emotionally immature parents facing away from daughter

4 Types of Emotionally Immature Parents?

  • The Emotionally Avoidant Passive Parent: This type of parent avoids discussing or dealing with emotions, often shutting down or distancing themselves when confronted with emotional situations.

    They may have difficulty expressing their feelings or understanding their child’s emotions, leading to a lack of emotional connection and support.

  • The Controlling Driven Parent: A controlling parent attempts to exert excessive authority over their child’s life, making decisions for them and often undermining their autonomy.

    This type of parent may use guilt, manipulation, or even aggression to maintain control, leaving the child feeling stifled and unable to express themselves freely.

  • The Narcissistic Parent: Narcissistic parents are overly focused on themselves, often seeking attention and validation from others. They may view their child as an extension of themselves and use them to fulfill their emotional needs.

    This type of parent typically lacks empathy, making it difficult for the child to receive the emotional support they need.

  • The Rejecting Parents: These parents exhibit an unapproachable and distant demeanour. Wrapped in a shroud of emotional detachment, this parent struggles to provide the warmth and nurturing that their child seeks. The child’s attempts to forge a deep connection are met with a cold, dismissive response, leaving them feeling isolated and yearning for the affection that seems to elude them.

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Signs of Emotionally Immature Parents

Emotionally immature parents often display certain behaviours that can negatively impact their children’s emotional well-being.

EI parents have a recognizable interpersonal style. The following 9 experiences describe what to expect in a relationship with them.

  1. Difficulty expressing emotions
  2. Lack of empathy for their children
  3. Overly controlling behaviour
  4. Inability to set healthy boundaries or have honest conversations
  5. Emotional unavailability and constant distractions
  6. Inability to handle stress
  7. Blurred boundaries
  8. Reliance on the child for emotional support (difficulty standing up for themselves or their children)
  9. Inconsistency in parenting

Adverse early life experiences affecting parenting skills

Parents who experience traumatic events or adverse circumstances during childhood may struggle to develop healthy parenting skills. These early life experiences could include abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence within the family.

As a result, they might lack essential coping mechanisms and emotional regulation abilities necessary for effective parenting.

The cycle of emotionally immature parenting

  • Inherited behaviours: Children learn to interact with others by observing their parents’ behaviour. Suppose a child grows up with emotionally immature parents who display poor communication skills and lack empathy. In that case, they are more likely to adopt similar patterns in adulthood when raising their children.
  • Lack of awareness: They often fail to recognize the negative impact of their behaviour on others, including their children. Without self-awareness and the readiness to make alterations, they could carry on the cycle of emotional immaturity in their parenting.
  • Unresolved trauma: Parents who have not addressed or healed from past traumas are more likely to project unresolved emotions onto their children, further contributing to the cycle.

Impact on Children Growing Up with Emotionally Immature Parents

Children who navigate life without a clear emotional compass feel lost and disconnected. Children in such environments may struggle to build healthy relationships, as they’ve never truly experienced the warmth and closeness they need.

Children raised in households with parental immaturity can often be left feeling inadequate and unsupported by emotional parents, leading to mental health issues such as:

  1. Low self-esteem (struggling with feelings of unworthiness)
  2. Difficulty forming healthy relationships
  3. Emotional dysregulation
  4. Poor coping skills
  5. Anxiety and depression
  6. Trust issues
  7. Codependency
  8. Struggles with setting boundaries
  9. Inability to identify and express emotions

Developing Insecure Attachments in Relationships

Insecure attachment styles often develop when children do not receive consistent emotional support from their caregivers.

According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, adult children who experienced emotional neglect during childhood are likelier to develop insecure attachment patterns in their romantic relationships later in life.

This can result in difficulty trusting others, fear of abandonment, and unhealthy dependency on partners.

  • Anxious Attachment: Individuals with this style tend to be overly dependent on their partners for reassurance and validation but also worry about abandonment or rejection.
  • Avoidant Attachment: Those who display avoidant attachment may appear distant or uninterested in forming close connections because they fear vulnerability and rejection.
  • Disorganized Attachment: People with disorganized attachment have difficulty forming consistent and stable relationships due to conflicting desires for closeness and independence.

Impact on Children Growing Up with Emotionally Immature Parents

Facing Unwanted Feelings

Once you become aware of your feelings about your relationship with your parent(s), you must permit yourself to face them head-on rather than trying to suppress them further through avoidance behaviours such as substance abuse, self-harm, etc

While this process can be painful at times – especially when children’s negative emotions face long-buried memories – doing so will allow you to understand more deeply how those early experiences continue impacting your life today.

Additionally, speaking openly about these issues with close friends, supportive family members, or a therapist specializing in trauma recovery can help provide additional emotional support.

Type of Therapies That Can Help

How Can We Support Loved Ones Who Grew Up with Emotionally Immature Parents?

By providing a non-judgmental, understanding ear and offering practical advice to assist them in navigating their healing journey, you can help your loved one build healthier relationships and improve their overall well-being.

By offering understanding, patience, and encouragement, along with practical advice for navigating this process together, you can help your loved one build healthier relationships and improve their overall well-being.

  1. Offering a Listening Ear Without Judgment
  2. Providing Reassurance During Moments of Vulnerability
  3. Helping Them Build Trust Through Open Communication

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes, emotionally immature parents can change. However, it requires self-awareness, willingness to seek help, and dedication to personal growth. Change is often complicated and can take time. However, with the proper support, such as therapy or counselling, an emotionally immature parent can learn to develop healthier emotional and communication skills.

  1. Set boundaries
  2. Seek support
  3. Practice self-care
  4. Develop emotional resilience
  5. Understand their limitations
  6. Focus on personal growth: Work on self-improvement and develop emotionally mature relationships.

While there are some positives, like high achievement, here is a list of the negatives.

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Anxiety and stress
  3. Low self-esteem
  4. Difficulty with emotional regulation
  5. Work-life imbalance
  6. Strained relationships:
  7. Fear of failure

Yes, having a healthy relationship with an emotionally immature parent is possible, but it requires understanding, setting boundaries, and managing expectations. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Acceptance: Understand and accept that your parent may have limitations in their emotional capacity and might be unable to change. Accepting their emotional immaturity can help you avoid unrealistic expectations.
  2. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. This may include limiting the time spent together, avoiding specific topics of conversation, or setting clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour.
  3. Manage expectations: Adjust your expectations of the relationship, recognizing that your parent may be unable to meet all your emotional needs.
  4. Communicate openly: When appropriate, express your thoughts and feelings calmly and assertively. This can help create an environment for honest conversations and mutual understanding.

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  1. Ramírez-Lucas, Ana et al. “Do Parental Styles and Parents’ Emotional Intelligence Influence Their Children’s Emotional Development In Kindergarten School?” (2015).
  2. Lavi, Iris et al. “Broken bonds: A meta-analysis of emotion reactivity and regulation in emotionally maltreating parents.” Child abuse & neglect 88 (2019): 376-388.
  3. Young, Robert et al. “Children’s perceptions of parental emotional neglect and control and psychopathology.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines 52 (2011): 889 – 897.
Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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