People who grew up with very little affection tend to develop these 9 traits later in life (according to psychology)

Growing up with a lack of affection can have a significant impact on who we become as adults.

In fact, psychologists suggest that individuals who experience minimal warmth and love while growing up often develop particular characteristics later in life.

These traits are not set in stone, but they’re observable patterns that could help us understand ourselves and others better.

As we delve into these nine traits, remember that everyone’s journey is unique and there’s always room for change and growth.

Here are the nine traits often observed in adults who received very little affection during their formative years.

1) Difficulty forming attachments

The lack of affection during childhood can make it tough for individuals to form meaningful relationships later in life.

Psychologists suggest that the security and love we receive as children help shape our ability to trust, connect, and maintain relationships. When this is lacking, it can lead to a struggle in forming secure attachments.

According to John Bowlby, British psychologist known for his work on attachment theory, xhildren who experience consistent warmth and affection early in life are more likely to develop secure attachments in adulthood. 

However, it’s important to note that this is not an absolute rule. People have the capacity for resilience and change. Many who grew up with little affection are able to form healthy relationships as adults, often through therapy or other forms of personal growth.

Still, it’s a common trait that we often see in those who didn’t get enough affection during their formative years. It’s a hurdle, not a wall, and understanding this can be the first step toward overcoming it.

2) Independence to a fault

Growing up without much affection often means learning to rely heavily on oneself. This can lead to a strong sense of independence, which can be both a strength and a challenge.

Take my story for instance. I grew up in an environment where affection was scarce. This translated into me becoming fiercely independent as an adult. I prided myself on handling things alone, never asking for help even when I needed it.

However, over time, I realized this extreme independence was isolating. It often kept me from forming deep connections with others and accepting support when it was offered.

Psychologists suggest that this over-independence is common among those who received little affection growing up. It’s a coping mechanism, a way of protecting oneself from the disappointment of unmet needs.

But remember, it’s perfectly okay to ask for help and lean on others. Independence is valuable, but so is interdependence. Balancing these two is key to healthy relationships and personal growth.

3) Heightened sensitivity to rejection

Those who grew up with little affection often develop a heightened sensitivity to rejection. This sensitivity, according to psychology, is linked to the fear of abandonment that stems from not receiving consistent love and care during childhood.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was found that people who felt rejected or unloved during their childhood were more likely to detect subtle signs of rejection in their adult relationships. They are often on high alert, interpreting ambiguous behaviors as rejection.

This heightened sensitivity can lead to self-protective behaviors and difficulty trusting others. But with self-awareness and support, it is something that can be managed and improved over time.

4) Emotionally reserved

Growing up without a lot of affection can often lead individuals to become emotionally reserved in their adult life.

Being emotionally reserved means keeping one’s feelings close to the chest, not readily expressing emotions or sharing personal feelings with others. This trait often develops as a protective mechanism from disappointments or hurt experienced in childhood.

It’s important to note, however, that being emotionally reserved doesn’t equate to a lack of feelings. These individuals often have a rich emotional inner world, they just find it challenging to express it openly.

Understanding this can help foster patience and empathy when interacting with those who grew up with less affection and seem distant or aloof at times. Remember, opening up and sharing emotions is a process that takes time and trust.

5) Craving for affection

Ironically, those who grew up with little affection often have an intense craving for it in their adulthood.

This craving can manifest in many ways. For some, it might be a desire for constant reassurance from their partners or friends. For others, it might be a tendency to form relationships quickly, hoping to fill the void left from their childhood.

However, it’s crucial to remember that while everyone deserves love and affection, seeking it externally can lead to co-dependent relationships. The key is to find a balance and learn to give oneself the same love and care we seek from others.

It’s never too late to learn self-love and to create healthier relationship patterns.

6) Compassion for others

One might assume that growing up with little affection would harden a person’s heart. But oftentimes, the opposite is true.

Many individuals who experienced a lack of affection in their childhood develop a deep well of compassion for others. They understand what it’s like to feel unloved or uncared for, and they don’t wish those feelings on anyone else.

This trait can make them great listeners, caring friends, and empathetic partners. They often go out of their way to make others feel valued and loved, as they know how much it matters.

This compassion is a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit. It’s proof that even in the face of adversity, we can choose kindness and empathy.

7) Overachieving tendencies

For some who grew up with little affection, achievements become a means of earning recognition and validation. This was the case for me.

Throughout my academic and professional life, I found myself striving to overachieve. I worked tirelessly, always pushing for that extra mile, hoping that my accomplishments would earn me the validation I craved.

Psychologists suggest that this drive to overachieve often stems from a deep-rooted belief that one’s worth is tied to their achievements. It’s a way of compensating for the lack of affection received during childhood.

It’s important, however, to remind ourselves that our worth is not defined by our achievements alone. We are valuable and deserving of love and affection regardless of our successes or failures.

8) Self-sufficiency

People who grew up with little affection often learn to take care of their own needs from an early age. This self-sufficiency can be a strength, equipping them with resilience and adaptability.

These individuals often become very competent at handling life’s challenges. They learn to rely on themselves, developing skills and capabilities that serve them well in various situations.

However, this self-sufficiency can sometimes make it challenging to let others in and accept help when needed. It’s important to remember that while self-reliance is a strength, we all need support and connection. Balancing independence with the willingness to accept help is a key part of personal growth and happiness.

9) Ability to heal and grow

Perhaps the most significant trait that people who grew up with little affection develop is their remarkable ability to heal and grow. Despite the challenges and setbacks, they possess an innate resilience that allows them to overcome adversity and transform their lives.

Psychology underscores the incredible capacity of the human mind and spirit to heal from past hurts. With time, support, and often professional help, individuals can learn to rewrite their narratives.

This ability to heal is not just about moving on from the past, it’s about learning to create healthier relationships, practicing self-love, and building a life that feels fulfilling and authentic.

It’s never too late to start this healing journey. Your past may have shaped you, but it doesn’t have to define you. You are capable of growth, change, and immense healing.

Final thoughts: It’s about understanding, not labeling

The complexities of human behavior and personality traits are often deeply intertwined with our early experiences.

Those who grew up with little affection may indeed develop certain traits, but it’s crucial to remember that these are not definitive labels. They’re insights that can lead to greater understanding and empathy, both for ourselves and for others.

Psychologists agree that our childhood experiences can shape us, but they also emphasize our capacity for change and growth. Our past can inform our present, but it doesn’t have to dictate our future.

For those who see themselves in these traits, remember this: You are more than the circumstances of your upbringing. Your journey may have been more challenging, but it’s also made you resilient, compassionate, and strong.

And perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that healing and change are always possible. With understanding, support, and sometimes professional help, we can all learn to navigate our lives in healthier and more fulfilling ways.

Remember, every journey begins with a single step. And understanding is often that first step towards healing and growth.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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