People who grew up with emotionally detached parents often display these 8 traits later in life

Growing up with emotionally detached parents can leave deep marks.

These marks aren’t always visible on the surface, but they often show up in the way we behave and interact with others – even years later.

And usually, people who grew up under such circumstances often slowly develop certain traits that can be traced back to their childhood experiences.

In this article, we’ll look at some of these traits. We’ll explore how a lack of emotional engagement in one’s formative years can shape how they navigate relationships and handle emotions in adulthood.

But remember, this isn’t about blaming parents or making excuses for our actions. It’s about understanding our past and using that knowledge to create a better future.

1) Difficulty forming close relationships

Living with emotionally detached parents can be a lonely experience.

Often, children of such parents learn early on to be self-reliant. They learn not to expect emotional support or warmth from their caregivers.

And as they grow up, this learned self-reliance can morph into a difficulty forming close, intimate relationships. It’s not that they don’t want to connect with others – it’s just that they’ve learned to keep their emotional walls up as a defense mechanism.

As a result, they might struggle with vulnerability, finding it hard to open up and share their feelings with others. This can make relationships feel superficial and unsatisfying – but the good news is, you can always choose to change it with awareness and care.

2) Overcompensation in emotional availability

On the flip side of the coin, some of us who grew up with emotionally detached parents swing to the opposite extreme.

I’ll tell you a bit about my personal journey. My parents were always distant, emotionally unavailable. As a kid, I yearned for that warmth, that connection. When I didn’t get it, I decided to become the kind of person I wished my parents had been.

As an adult, I’ve often found myself being overly emotionally available for others. I pour my heart and soul into my relationships, sometimes to the point of losing myself.

I’ve realized over time that this is my way of overcompensating for what I missed out on in my formative years. 

And I’ve also realized, like all traits, it can be managed. Understanding why we behave the way we do can help us find balance in our relationships.

3) High levels of independence

Children of emotionally detached parents often learn to fend for themselves from a young age. They’re used to handling their problems alone, without much emotional support or guidance.

This early life experience can lead to a high level of independence in adulthood. These individuals are often self-reliant and able to handle challenges on their own – they may also be more likely to display entrepreneurial tendencies, as they’re used to relying on themselves rather than others.

But wait, isn’t this a good thing? It certainly can be. There are upsides to every situation, and strengths that can come out of even the worst of situations. 

On the flip side, being too independent can sometimes lead to trouble asking for help even when it’s needed. Balancing independence with interdependence can be a lifelong journey, but both of these puzzle pieces are needed for a truly wholesome life.

4) Difficulty expressing emotions

Emotionally detached parents often lack the ability or willingness to express their own emotions. As a result, their children may not learn how to express their feelings in a healthy way either.

As adults, these individuals might struggle with identifying their emotions, let alone expressing them. This can lead to feelings of confusion or frustration, both for themselves and for those around them.

For many, therapy can be extremely helpful in this regard. It can provide a safe space for individuals to explore their emotions, and learn how to express them in a healthy and productive manner.

Remember, it’s never too late to learn new ways of emotional expression. I know people who tried therapy for the first time in their 40s, 50s, or even 60s – and all of them have benefited enormously as a result. 

5) A deep longing for connection

Beneath the surface of self-reliance and emotional walls, there often lies a deep, unfulfilled longing for connection.

Growing up without emotional warmth or understanding can leave a person yearning for these missing pieces in their adult life. The outcome: a desire for close friendships, a need for romantic relationships, or a quest for a sense of community.

These are all beautiful goals, yet many of these individuals feel embarrassed or even unworthy to go after them. 

But, here’s the heartfelt truth: This longing isn’t a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you’re flawed or broken. It’s simply a testament to your capacity for love and connection. It’s a sign that you’re human, and that you’ve survived an emotionally challenging childhood.

6) Sensitivity to rejection

Growing up, as I’ve already mentioned, my parents were often emotionally distant. Unintentionally, they made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter. This left me with a sense of rejection that I carried into adulthood.

Now, I find myself overly sensitive to any form of rejection. Criticism, even if it’s constructive, can feel deeply personal. Cancelled plans or unreturned calls can stir up feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.

Even though I know about this and I’ve been working on it for years, it’s still hard to overcome. And that’s something I’ve also heard from others who had a similar upbringing. It’s a defense mechanism, a way to protect ourselves from the pain of feeling rejected again.

But with understanding and self-compassion, we can learn to see these reactions for what they are: echoes of past hurts. And with time and practice, we can learn to respond to them in healthier ways.

7) Fear of commitment

Committing to a relationship requires trust, vulnerability, and emotional openness. For those of us who grew up with emotionally detached parents, these can be scary territories to navigate.

Our early experiences may have taught us that emotional investment leads to disappointment. As a result, we might find ourselves shying away from commitment, whether it’s in romantic relationships, friendships, or even career paths.

We might fear that we’ll end up hurt or abandoned, just as we felt in our childhood. But here’s the thing: Fear of commitment isn’t an insurmountable hurdle.

When we recognize where this fear comes from, we can start to challenge it. We can start to trust ourselves and others, and slowly open ourselves up to the possibility of commitment with those we trust – and the beautiful experiences that brings.

8) Capacity for empathy and resilience

Here’s the crucial thing to remember: Growing up with emotionally detached parents can be challenging, but it doesn’t define us.

In fact, a big silver lining is that our experiences can often foster a deep capacity for empathy. We understand what it’s like to feel unheard and unseen, so we strive to make others feel acknowledged and valued.

Moreover, our childhood experiences can make us incredibly resilient. We’ve faced emotional hardship from a young age and have learned to adapt and persevere. This resilience is an invaluable trait that can serve us well in all aspects of life.

Never forget – we have the power to heal, grow, and create a life that feels fulfilling and meaningful.

Final thoughts: Healing is possible

The struggles of growing up with emotionally detached parents are real and valid. Yet, it’s important to remember that our past experiences don’t have to define our future.

Yes, we may carry certain traits due to our upbringing. But these traits aren’t set in stone. With awareness, understanding, and self-compassion, change is entirely possible.

Psychotherapist Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This statement certainly holds true for individuals who have experienced an emotionally detached upbringing.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means acknowledging our past, understanding its impact on us, and using this knowledge as a springboard for growth.

Remember, healing isn’t a linear journey. It takes time, patience, and often involves taking two steps forward and one step back. But every step, no matter how small, brings us closer to becoming the person we aspire to be.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

If a woman is secretly bored in a relationship, she’ll usually display these 7 behaviors

8 little-known ways to become a more confident person overnight, according to psychology