Characteristics of emotionally abusive parents

Emotionally abusive parents cause psychological damage to their children that can affect them even in their adult lives. Find out what kind of behaviors are the most characteristic.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 22 March, 2022

Most of us condemn physical violence towards children. No one would try to justify or defend a father who beats his children or sexually abuses them. However, there is a type of violence that is more difficult to detect (but just as harmful) that we do not fight against: psychological violence. Emotionally abusive parents leave deep and lasting marks on their children..

And it is that, believe it or not, it is possible that you yourself have suffered this type of abuse during childhood. They are behaviors that you overlooked, that you justified or thought were normal, but that still impact your way of being today.

Many people discover this reality as adults. And his vision about his childhood changes. However, this is the first step to being able to heal and be free.

Emotionally abusive parents have many faces.

Emotional or psychological abuse It does not always consist of insults and humiliations. It can be much more subtle and go unnoticed.

In addition, it is not always due to excess (parents act incorrectly with their children), but it can also be due to default (parents do not offer what the child needs for proper development).

In short, if you had in mind a prototypical profile of emotionally abusive parents, you should know that they can have different faces. Even, Many of them we observe on a daily basis without realizing it. of the violence that is taking place.

That is why we present you some of the main characteristics that you should pay attention to.

constantly criticize

emotionally abusive parents always make negative comments about the appearance of their children, your weight, your behavior or your personality. With sincerity as a flag, they utter criticism that damages self-esteem.

They say they do it for the good of minors, to encourage them to change. But in reality, they only make them feel miserable, inferior and inadequate.

Parental emotional abuse is not limited to childhood. These relationships can continue into adulthood.


They compare their children

There is always someone better: a brother, a cousin, a neighbor, a schoolmate. The child is subjected to continuous comparisons in which he always loses out.

These emotionally abusive parents do not recognize or reward the virtues or achievements of their children. They always focus on what they are not and what they should be, on what they do not do and what they should do in order to measure up to others.

They demand more than they should

Parents with these characteristics demand impeccable behavior, excellent grades, or achievements beyond their children’s reach. They may ask a young child to control their impulses as if they were an adult, don’t yell, don’t cry, don’t play or make noise. They do not take into account the children’s needs, but their own.

Similarly, they do not value school effort, but the results. And when they are not as perfect as they hope, instead of supporting the child, they blame him for his failure.

They invalidate the emotions

This is one of the most common behaviors among parents that, despite constituting abuse, is usually normalized. And it consists of not validating the emotions of their children, not giving them the importance they deserve or giving them the attention they require.

When the child expresses anger, he is scolded for his misbehavior; when he is sad and cries he is asked to shut up and when he looks for comfort he does not find it. The child’s problems are downplayed or overlooked.

They ridicule or humiliate

Humiliation is one of the childhood wounds that we carry even into adult life and is caused when emotionally abusive parents they humiliate their children for having made a mistake. Dirty clothes, saying a bad word or any insignificant gesture can be used to ridicule the child.

Are not avaliables

Not offering the child the attention, affection and support that he or she needs It is also abuse. Thus, many parents are simply not available for their children. Either because they prefer to spend their time on other plans or activities, or because their attention is on other matters.

In these situations, children grow up feeling alone, abandoned and wondering what is wrong with them that they do not deserve that love that should be unconditional.

They take on confusing roles

Although not done with malicious intent, some parents they burden their children with the weight of being adults. They reverse the roles in some way.

Perhaps because they do not set the limits that the child needs, because they are negligent and it is the minor who must take responsibility for himself. Or even because they use their children as emotional support in matters that do not concern them. For example, making them responsible for calming their parents’ anxiety or listening to their sadness during a divorce.

They blame and project their frustrations

“You have stolen my youth”, “I have given everything for you and that is how you repay me”, “much better without having children”… Do these phrases sound familiar to you?

If you have heard them during your childhood, you have to know that they constitute emotional violence. With these statements, adults project their frustrations onto minors and blame them for an unhappiness that only depends on themselves.

They don’t offer affection

Each person expresses love in a different language and that’s okay. Not all parents say “I love you” not all offer constant hugs.

But in his own way, convey the affection they feel for their children. If these displays of affection are not present, the emotional damage to children will be profound.

Demonstrations of love by parents towards their children are not always the same in all families.

They are unpredictable and inconsistent

Some children have grown up in an environment that they perceived as hostile and insecure, forcing them to remain constantly on the alert. And it is that the development of events always depended on the mood of his father or mother.

If the adult was happy, everything went well and the child received attention and affection. But if he was having a bad day, indifference or contempt became apparent. Growing up with this uncertainty is harmful and is related to an anxious attachment in adulthood.

They are invasive

How many times, in the name of love, parents invade the life and privacy of their children? They check every corner of your room, spy on your conversations and social networks, ask to know every detail of your life and don’t hesitate to give your opinion, judge and rule on it.

Individual freedom is a necessary right for proper development. If you limit yourself, you are making a serious mistake.



Having emotionally abusive parents impacts adult life

It is possible that when reading the previous lines you have identified several situations from your own childhood. But if you still have a hard time recognizing yourself in this dynamic, it is enough to observe your current feelings and attitudes to know if you are carrying the consequences of emotional abuse.

Think about if you feel enough, if you are sure of yourself and if you can trust others. Do you have healthy relationships in which you feel respected and valued? Are you capable of setting limits without fear and without guilt? If your answer to the previous questions is not yes, it is likely that there are important issues from your childhood to review.

But above all, ask yourself how you feel about your parents today. Try to be honest with yourself.

Is there rancor, resentment, fear of being judged by them or desire not to spend much time with them? If so, don’t blame yourself. It is possible that they were emotionally abusive in the past, even without knowing it. In this case, seeking professional help will be the best way.

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