7 traits found in adults lacking affection as kids revealed (and #3 is heartbreaking)

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Seven traits have been identified in adults who lacked affection as kids. Our psychologist shares her thoughts on them - they might seem negative, but don't have to define anyone.

Adults who were lonely as children might share similar traits in adulthood as those who lacked affection as kids. Parents who struggle to show feelings for their children might've grown up without affection themselves, perpetuating outdated parenting styles that favoured rigid rules and obedience over caring attention.

We spoke to our resident expert and educational psychologist, Dr Patricia Britto, about the seven common traits identified in adults who lacked affection growing up. She shares her opinions on them, and offers coping mechanisms for anyone who identifies with them, and feels they didn't get the best start in life from parents who struggled to show their emotions.

7 traits in adults who lacked affection as kids

  1. Hyper-independence. Dr Britto shares "Having a sense of independence can be a relative strength as it promotes the idea of being self-sufficient, which is necessary to function as an adult, such as completing tasks, making and keeping your appointments, and maintaining a healthy and safe lifestyle. However, hyper-independence refers to individual attempts to be fully independent even when help or support from others is required. Being hyper-independent can be unhealthy and can be classified as a trauma response in some cases. Adults who may have had a traumatic experience during their childhood may choose to be hyper-independent as a form of coping mechanism."

  2. Constantly seeking validation. Dr Britto adds her thoughts on this, telling us "A healthy amount of external validation is needed, and it is likely to help individuals feel a sense of belonging, but how much is too much? Emotional validation from parents, especially in childhood is likely to build emotional literacy skills in children. Having emotional literacy skills helps a child to feel valued and supports the development of their emotional regulation skills. When adults constantly seek validation. It may be that they have an emotional unmet need in their current stage of life, or there are aspects of life linked to previous life experiences."

  3. Mistrust the ability of others to love them. It's understandable that anyone who grows up lacking affection, will believe others in their life won't love them. Mum-of-two, Jess, felt distanced from her parents growing up. Se tells us "As soon as I started dating and having relationships, I was quite needy. I constantly needed reassurance I was loved and looked for reasons to suggest they didn't love me at all. It destroyed my relationships until I met my very understanding husband and got some therapy."

  4. Scared of commitment. Alternatively, those who didn't grow up with much affection can steer themselves away from commitment altogether. Dr Britto shares "Adults who may have had adverse childhood experiences may struggle to develop trust in others and form trusted relationships due to their challenging early life experiences."

  5. Struggle to express their needs. Dr Britto tells us "Some individuals may not even personally recognise their emotions and, therefore, struggle to express their needs. In childhood, learning to identify personal feelings is critical to developing emotional intelligence. Also, some may be worried about rejection. Rejection is not just disempowering; it can affect one’s confidence and self-esteem, can result in choosing not to express needs and resolve conflict to avoid having such negative feelings."

  6. Find conflict resolution hard. This can stem from an unresolved past. Negative childhood memories can create big emotions that attach themselves to present situations. If you find yourself reacting badly to conflict, it could be because you're bringing issues relating to lack of affection into current life.

  7. Struggle to love themselves. Dr Britto shares "I don't think anyone struggles to love themselves, but they may find it challenging to feel they are deserving of compassion, praise and positive regard that they give to others due to various factors."

To overcome these traits, Dr Britto suggests "Children who have experienced neglect or have heard others have negative biases towards themselves may struggle to have a sense of worth and value, which is required to accept and love oneself fully. To overcome the above challenges, one needs to learn, unlearn or develop a sense of compassion.

Self-compassion means accepting one’s feelings and working towards meeting one's feelings with care rather than rushing to create a fix. Adults. They could also decide to see professionals such as Clinical or Counselling Psychologists or Psychotherapists who can help them welcome their feelings and be gentle with themselves to cultivate acts of self-love, kindness and compassion toward themselves."

With work, a difficult familial relationship can be healed - six phrases have been identified as a starting point, that adult children of distant parents need to hear to start the process.

Self-care as an adult can boost your wellbeing, and active listening can improve relationships with those around you. If you really want to make your kids feel loved, there's ways to do it in a way they can process.