11 behaviors of people who had to grow up too fast, according to psychology

People who had to grow up too quickly differ significantly from those who enjoyed a long and happy childhood.

Unlike children who had the freedom to nurture their imagination, creativity, and adventurous spirit, these individuals were burdened with responsibilities early on.

They were confronted with the harsh realities of life from a young age:

Whether this was due to parental decisions or unavoidable circumstances such as the loss of a caregiver, serious illness, or unexpected tragedy, the results are similar.

What are the effects of growing up too fast?

The impact is twofold:

They mature faster and take on more responsibility than those with a fuller childhood, but they also face unique challenges and frustrations. 

Let’s examine the pros and cons of growing up too fast, according to psychology, starting with the positives…

1) They stick closely to schedules

People who were forced to grow up too quickly are typically very self-disciplined.

Because they experienced what psychologists call “parentification,” they were basically compelled to become an adult while they were still just a kid. 

A big part of that was adhering closely to schedules. 

They learned to follow a strict schedule early on, a habit that persists into adulthood.

They are often:

  • Punctual
  • Committed
  • Early risers

In some cases this can be positive. 

As psychologist Alice Boyes, PhD. notes:

“There might be periods in which a strict schedule is the only way you can get done whatever it is you need to do.”

2) They are highly organized

This ties into the previous point:

Those who were parentified ended up learning to handle their own affairs very early on. 

From a young age, these individuals managed their daily chores and responsibilities, making them highly organized.

This skill ties back to their commitment to a schedule and includes:

  • Planning ahead
  • Keeping track of others’ schedules whom they care for or are responsible for them
  • Having contingency plans for potential problems

As psychologist Imi Lo explains:

“Parentification constitutes a form of “role reversal” in the family when a child is made to take on parental responsibilities. 

“They may have to, aside from taking care of themselves, be their parents’ confidantes, their siblings’ caretaker, the family mediator, etc.”

3) They take responsibility

While they may not always acknowledge it themselves, those who grew up quickly take on more responsibility than many of their peers.

Because of being parentified early on, they had nowhere to fall back on and nobody who would pick up the slack. 

This can have big benefits. 

They keep their promises and are willing to take on leadership roles when needed.

They own up to failures at work and strive to make improvements where necessary.

“When we are personally accountable, we go after our goals and dreams instead of just talking about them,” notes Andrea Darcy at Harley Therapy.

4) They confront problems head-on

Having missed out on much of the carefree aspects of childhood, they were forced to face problems and harsh realities early.

They maintain this attitude into adulthood, tackling issues directly rather than avoiding them or delegating to others.

These individuals approach challenges with zeal.

Denied much sympathy or room for denial from a young age, they put their full effort into overcoming obstacles.

As psychologist Ben Bernstein, PhD. advises:

“When you see your experiences in life as ongoing opportunities for you to grow, and that your growth means you can make a greater contribution to serving others, you will more readily accept what life offers.”

5) They seek solutions, not excuses

Growing up quickly often leads to a mindset focused on solutions rather than excuses.

Having learned early that excuses were not acceptable, they concentrate on achieving results instead of justifying inaction.

This ties into their work ethic and financial mindset as well, which tends to be extremely full-on.

Having been denied much of the comfort and imagination of childhood, especially economically, they understand the value of hard work and financial responsibility.

As Tutti Taygerly observes:

“An essential part of building good work ethic is adopting a ‘do it like you own it’ attitude.”

Now, let’s consider the less favorable aspects of growing up too fast…

6) They avoid unnecessary drama

Those who grew up fast tend to avoid drama.

They learned early that actions speak louder than words, influencing how they handle stress and interact with others.

They avoid pointless arguments and gossip, focusing instead on competence and fulfilling expectations.

These individuals are usually highly pragmatic instead of dramatic.

They manage everyday tasks efficiently, plan for the future, and ensure the well-being of those who depend on them.

They think strategically about career advancement and are adept at networking for self-interest.

With all of these positives, however, it’s important to take a look at many of the hardest aspects of being forced to grow up too fast… 

7) They are highly self-critical

Those who had little time to grow up often become very self-critical.

They were given significant responsibilities early on and tend to blame themselves when things go wrong.

Growing up too soon has various benefits listed previously, but it’s ultimately a major burden on a child. 

Those who grew up too fast basically learned to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and feel responsible for everything (and everyone).

As psychologist Mark Travers, PhD. points out:

“No child should have to grow up too soon. If you are a parentified child still carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, it’s important to seek help so you can learn to set boundaries and take care of yourself.”

8) They may suppress their creativity

Creativity is often stifled in those who grew up quickly.

They may feel that other responsibilities leave no room for creative pursuits or view creativity as less valuable due to early life impressions that being “just a kid” was unimportant.

A big part of this centers around repressing their emotions and trying their best to be “normal” and “productive” in a way that doesn’t leave much space for creativity and artistic expression. 

These individuals often struggle with emotions, having learned to repress them in favor of growing up quickly.

They continue to downplay emotions, sometimes even teaching their own children that feelings are unimportant.

9) They tend toward people pleasing

Growing up with strict or controlling parents can lead to approval-seeking behavior in adulthood.

Being parentified sadly often leads to a crushed sense of self-worth in which the child only feels worthy when they are pleasing and obeying others.

They often prioritize others’ expectations over their own needs, hoping this will satisfy them.

“A people-pleaser, however, does not have high self-regard. They need to tend to the needs of others, thinking this will fulfill their own emotional needs,” notes Psychology Today. 

“They spend time worrying about what others think about them; they are not pleasing others out of love or benevolence, they are doing so out of fear.”

10) They seek approval from authority

Those who grew up quickly often seek validation from authority figures.

They feel unsure and scared about doing things that aren’t explicitly permitted or given a greenlight. 

As such, they often hold themselves back from their full potential.

Having been taught to obey and be “good,” they continue to look for guidance from authority figures in adulthood.

It’s important to begin “assessing the damage that was done in the past and mending the fence, bit by bit,” notes Travers. 

11) They devalue their own judgments

These individuals often distrust their own intuition and judgments, feeling that their opinions are not important.

They begin to feel they are a bit player in their own lives, also failing to treat themselves and being very minimalistic. 

Even in their free time they work and avoid any indulgences, vacations or time enjoying themselves. 

They are very minimalist to an extreme degree in many cases.

“They internalize the message that having needs and desires is not acceptable,” notes Lo.

“They become ashamed of their vulnerabilities, and eventually, emotional numbness and self-denial become their second nature.”

The regret of not having a longer childhood

While those who grew up quickly often handle responsibilities well, they tend to experience a unique regret.

They feel they missed out on the special experiences and depth of childhood that others enjoyed, a time that cannot be reclaimed.

The good news is that life continues to provide opportunities for wonder, spontaneity and fun. 

In many cases they need a bit more fun and levity in their life, enjoying some of what they missed out on in their younger years. 

“Often, the first step to healing is to acknowledge and speak up about the repressed trauma,” advises Travers. 

“If you find yourself held back by self-doubts, stop to breathe and remind yourself that the hidden and insidious nature of your trauma does not make your feelings any less valid.”

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