Uninvolved Parenting – Psychological Effects on Children

Now that I am a parent to my younger sister, I know how difficult parenting can be. It’s especially hard when I have my own issues to deal with.

Honestly, I have my moments where I’m too busy wrapped up in my own problems to worry about her. There are times when I’ve probably neglected her that hurts for me to admit.

But as her parent now, it is my responsibility to stay involved in her life. It’s my responsibility to make sure she still feels loved and cared for, despite whatever I’m going through.

Just because I had toxic parents doesn’t mean my children have to either. It’s up to me to break the cycle.

How you choose to parent your child can affect their development whether you’re aware of it or not. The parenting style you choose to adopt can create positive or negative effects on your child.

Brief Overview of The Four Main Parenting Styles

Based on the work of developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, in the 1960s, there are four main parenting styles, each characterized by the parents’ level of responsiveness and demands.

Responsiveness refers to how warm and responsive the parents are to their children.

Demands refer to the rules, structures, and limits the parent places on their children.

The four main parenting styles are:

  • Authoritarian (low responsiveness, high demands): Authoritarian parents tend to be strict and rigid. They believe children must follow the rules no matter what.
  • Authoritative (high responsiveness, high demands): Authoritative parents set reasonable boundaries for their children while providing them with the needed warmth and affection to thrive.
  • Permissive (high responsiveness, low demands): Permissive parents usually try to be their child’s best friend. They don’t usually set or enforce any rules on their kids, but are highly responsive towards them.
  • Uninvolved (low responsiveness, low demands): Uninvolved parents typically don’t set or enforce any rules. They don’t give their children much attention or affection either.

This article will specifically cover uninvolved parenting, the psychological effects it has on the child, and how to get help for either the parent or child.

4 different parenting styles image

What is Uninvolved Parenting?

image of child who is a victim of uninvolved parenting

Uninvolved parenting, as the name suggests, refers to parents who aren’t involved in their children’s lives and have no interest to be. As mentioned before, it is characterized by low responsiveness and low demands.

While uninvolved parents may provide for the children’s basic needs like food and shelter, they do the bare minimum when it comes to parenting.

They make little to no rules, structures, guidelines, or limits for their children. They don’t usually show much support, attention, warmthaffection, or love towards their children either. Basically, they’re very hands-off when it comes to parenting.

These types of parents tend to be indifferent, dismissive, or even neglectful, hence why the uninvolved parenting style is also referred to as the neglectful parenting style.

Uninvolved parents are not to be confused with permissive or busy parents. For instance, although permissive parents provide their children with few rules and lots of freedom, they still care about their children, providing them with affection and attention.

As for parents who are too busy for their kids, they may still make an effort to check in with their children and ensure that they’re still cared for by someone else. Or they spend whatever free time they have with their child.

There are varying degrees to how uninvolved or involved a parent can be. But the deciding factor on what’s considered uninvolved is typically based on how much the parent cares about their child.

For the most part, uninvolved parents don’t care about their children. They make little to no effort to try to care. To them, they may see their child as simply another thing that just happens to be in their vicinity. Or worse, they may even see their child as a burden that they actively try to avoid taking care of or actively reject.

It’s important to note that what makes someone an uninvolved parent isn’t one or two moments where they might be too preoccupied with something. What makes an uninvolved parent is a pattern of distant and neglectful behaviour towards their child.

What are some characteristics of uninvolved parenting style?

Some signs of uninvolved parenting include:

  • Providing little to no adult supervision for their child
  • Lack of interest in their child or child’s life
  • Setting few to no expectations, demands, or rules for the child’s behaviour
  • Showing little to no warmth, love, support, guidance, or affection towards their child
  • Not spending time with the child
  • Emotionally distant from their child
  • Not attending school events, parent-teacher conferences, or appointments for the child
  • Often busy or occupied with other things unrelated to the child

Why Do Parents Adopt This Method of Parenting?

Various reasons and factors might cause parents to adopt the uninvolved method of parenting.

It’s How They Were Parented

Sometimes, this may be the most prominent and most straightforward answer for why someone might parent the way they do – it’s because they were parented that way themselves.

A lot of people pick up parenting styles from their parents. So if someone has uninvolved parents, there’s a likely chance they’ll become an uninvolved parent to their child.

They personally might not see any issue with it or even think to question it.

Even if the uninvolved parent doesn’t agree with their own parents’ parenting, they still might not think to reflect on their own parenting. Or they might genuinely believe that they are different or “not as bad” as their parents.

They might not realize that even when we think we’re different from our parents, many of our behaviours are unconsciously picked up from their behaviours, whether we like it or not.

They Think It Benefits the Child

Some uninvolved parents believe this style of parenting is beneficial for their children. They think that it will make their child better able to face different challenges in life. Or they believe they are giving their child the freedom they need to experience life as it is without the parent’s disruptions.

These parents fail to realize or comprehend that they are making it harder for their child to develop practical coping skills to deal with life’s obstacles by doing nothing.

They Are Too Self-Centered

Some parents might be too busy focusing on their own needs and desires that they fail to make time or care for their children. Unfortunately, these types of parents may see nothing wrong with what they’re doing and continues to make themselves the priority while their child ends up on the back burner.

Some parents may even intentionally neglect their child because they think it’s a waste of time, effort, money, or energy. They may see their child as a burden and may even resent the child for needing to be taken care of.

They Are Unaware of Their Parental Responsibilities

Some parents might not know how to parent, so they take an approach where they do nothing. 

These parents may be confused about how to be good parents. Or they’re utterly unaware that parenting comes with specific responsibilities.

They Are Preoccupied with Something Else

The parent may be too busy with work. Or maybe they have a health condition that takes up all their time. Or they may have other issues or challenges in their life like financial problems, loss, addiction, mental health problems, or a tragic life event that requires their full attention. 

However, this doesn’t mean that any parents preoccupied with something else are uninvolved. What makes a parent uninvolved is if they don’t make other arrangements to ensure that their child is appropriately cared for.

Sometimes, life gets in the way, and many things happen that are out of our control. But it is still the parents’ responsibility to ensure their child is cared for and loved regardless of whatever challenges they’re personally facing.

What are the Effects of Uninvolved Parenting on a Child’s Development?

Having an uninvolved parent affects a child’s development in all stages of their life – from infancy to adulthood.

Children’s emotional and physical development could be stunted due to uninvolved parenting. In addition, children who grew up with involved parents are also at a higher risk of depressionanxiety, and other mood disorders.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers require physical touch and emotional attention to grow and thrive. A lack of physical and emotional attention can cause changes in the developing young child’s brain.

For instance, cortisol (stress hormone) levels tend to be higher in neglected children.

Children of uninvolved parents also tend to have attachment issues. As a result, many of them have difficulty forming attachments later in life.

Children

According to research, children of uninvolved parents may have less effective coping skills, trouble controlling their emotions, academic challenges, and difficulty creating or maintaining social relationships.

Without any guidance, encouragement, or advice from their parents, children may be confused about how they should approach life. They may see life as this big, scary thing they have to face independently. They don’t have anyone to effectively teach them how to deal with challenges.

Research also suggests that uninvolved parenting is linked to lower self-esteem and self-confidence in children and adolescents. These children may also be more impulsive and aggressive, leading to behavioural problems.

When a parent doesn’t care for their child, it can affect their confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth. So if a child feels unloved, it only makes sense that they’ll struggle to love themselves.

Adolescents

According to research, teenagers with uninvolved parents tend to make poorer decisions due to the lack of guidance and boundaries. As a result, they may be rebellious and defiant, have substance abuse problems, or even exhibit delinquency.

When adolescents are allowed to do whatever they want with no consequences, they can end up rebellious or defiant. Or worse, they may resort to aggressive, violent, or criminal behavior.

Also, adolescents with uninvolved parents may abuse substances as a way to numb the pain or as an act of defiance. Their risk of substance abuse is also higher if their parents do it.

Teenagers with uninvolved parents also tend to lack social skills, have social anxiety, have low self-esteem, struggle with mental health issues, struggle academically, or have attachment issues.

In the end, there are many possible long-lasting effects on the child throughout their life as a result of uninvolved parenting, including the possibility of them becoming uninvolved parents themselves and continuing the cycle with their own children.

What Should You Do If You Realize You’re An Uninvolved Parent?

Parenting can be difficult. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t crucial for us to be the best parents to ensure the best for our children.

It can be challenging to ensure you’re giving your child the best when you don’t have the time or energy to do it. But remember, you chose to have them. That makes them your responsibility.

If you notice you might be an uninvolved parent and/or have a spouse or partner who might be, there are things you (and your spouse/partner) can do to change that.

  • Learn more about parenting. Read books, attend classes, and utilize resources to learn more about properly and effectively parenting your child.
  • Make your child feel seen, heard, loved and cared for.
  • Take an interest in your child’s life. Ask them about their day. Discover who they are and how they feel.
  • Openly communicate with your child. Ask them questions. Listen to their responses.
  • Make and spend time with your child doing various activities to foster your relationship.
  • Be available for your child’s needs. Be supportive, encouraging, and validating.
  • Ask your child’s school about how you can be more involved. If your child is older, ask them how you can be more involved.
  • Consider therapy, whether by yourself or with your child.

If your partner or spouse is the uninvolved parent in this situation and they refuse to make any changes, it is up to you to reevaluate how you want to approach the problem. It is also vital that you try to stay involved in your children’s life.

Just one supportive adult in a child’s life can make a significant difference in their health and development. Be that adult. Meanwhile, do the best you can to address your and the other parent’s parenting issues. Consider seeking therapy.

Seeking Therapy

Whether you are a parent who is uninvolved or you are someone who has an uninvolved parent, seeking therapy can be beneficial for you.

For uninvolved parents

A therapist can help you explore your own experiences to see how your parenting style came to be and what changes you need to make now to better it. They can also provide tips and guidance on how you can become more involved in your child’s life.

You can also consider family therapy with your child. A family therapist can help you learn each other’s perspectives and what changes need to be made to better your relationship.

For those who have uninvolved parents

If you are underage and still under your parents’ care, you can ask them for consent to attend therapy. Or you can reach out to a school counsellor or social worker that can provide you with the counselling you need to address the effects uninvolved parenting has caused.

If you are an adult that grew up with an uninvolved parent, therapy can help you process your experiences, learn to practice self-care, and re-parent yourself. A therapist can guide you through the steps you need to take to realize that you are a person worthy of support, care, and love. And just because you missed out on it growing up doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to make up for it yourself.

If you have an uninvolved parent, I know it can be hard to recover from. You might feel rejected, unwanted, and unloved. I bet that did a number on your confidence. But your parent was flawed, and that is not on you. Just because your parent didn’t correctly love you doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. It’s up to you to learn to love, or at least care for yourself, now.

Final Thoughts

In the end, having uninvolved parents can affect the child in a lot of ways people may be unaware of. Whether you are the parent, the child, or both, take the steps you need to begin healing and to start loving yourself and your (future) children.

Written By: Estee

Having been raised by an abusive mother, Estee developed an interest in mental health to better learn, understand, and manage the effects the abuse had on her. She holds an Associate’s Degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Sociology and Health. Her experiences inspired her to create Hopeful Panda, a blog dedicated to individuals with abusive parents. In her spare time, Estee enjoys cooking, learning, exploring, gaming, drawing, writing, and spending time with her family.

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