People who received very little affection as a child usually develop these 7 traits as an adult, according to psychology

I’ve got some bad news.

The way you were treated as a child has had such a fundamental impact on your psychological well-being that you may still carry plenty of unhealed wounds inside you – wounds that wreak havoc in the most silent and invisible ways.

If you received very little affection, you may have developed an avoidant attachment style, hyper-independence, or people-pleasing tendencies. You might also be terrified of – and crave – commitment.

Fortunately, I’ve got some great news, too.

These traits can all be managed, healed, and ultimately left in the past. But it does take work.

And the first step is to recognize in which ways your childhood impacted you.

So, without further ado…

People who received little affection as a child usually develop these 7 traits as an adult.

1) They are hyper-independent

Here’s how you can tell your needs often weren’t met as a child.

When you wanted consolation, you got aggression; when you craved attention, you got dismissal; when you wanted to be cared for, you had to step up and look after your caretaker instead.

There’s actually a term for this – it’s called parentification, which psychologist Annie Tanasugarn Ph.D., CCTSA, describes as “a form of childhood trauma where there is a role reversal that happens between the primary caregiver and the child. In parentified children, the parent imposes their unmet emotional, physical, or psychological needs onto the child.”

Furthermore, she explains that “a common outcome of parentification is that the child becomes an adult who is hyper-independent as a result of traumatic or challenging events experienced in childhood. These may have included parental divorce, substance abuse in the family, violence, poverty, or serious immaturity or irresponsibility in the parent.”

So, how does hyper-independence manifest?

These are a few signs to watch out for:

  • You refuse to accept and ask for help, insisting you can manage on your own (even in situations where you could really use a helping hand)
  • You’re an over-achiever who likes to commit to more responsibilities than you can handle
  • You hate to rely on others because you don’t want to give them the chance to disappoint you
  • You feel like you’re the only person you can count on
  • You’re secretly afraid of being rejected or abandoned, and so you remain emotionally guarded

Sounds like you?

If so, it’s the first sign you received very little affection as a child – and are still recovering from it.

2) They’re mistrustful of people’s ability to love them

“Trauma can affect a person’s ability to feel safe or secure in their relationships, which may leave a person feeling scared or anxious,” says Tanasugarn. “Mistrust in infancy can generalize to overall distrust of others in their adult relationships because of early conditioning.”

Here’s why anxiously attached people hold on too much and avoidantly attached people try to keep everyone at arm’s length – they don’t trust people to love them.

More specifically, they aren’t used to the fact that other people’s love for them could be healthy, long-term, and safe.

To them, attachment means chaos. It means insecurity. It means inconsistency.

And whilst anxious people do everything they can to stay in control of their relationships, mistakenly assuming that if they are in charge, everything will go to plan, avoidants don’t even try.

The key to breaking this toxic cycle of mistrust and building healthier relationships often begins with self-love. The Vessel’s Self-Love Journey program offers just that: a transformative path towards deeper self-understanding and acceptance. By cultivating self-love and compassion, you can begin to heal from past wounds and develop a stronger sense of self-worth.

The Self-Love Journey program (currently running a special offer) guides you through a process of self-discovery and healing, teaching you to:

  • Cultivate self-compassion and acceptance
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Develop authentic communication skills
  • Connect with your inner wisdom
  • Create a life filled with love and purpose

By investing in your own self-love journey, you’ll transform your relationship with yourself and create a solid foundation for building trust and connection with others.

When you love yourself deeply, you become more open to receiving love from others, and you’ll be able to recognize and attract partners who are truly capable of loving you in the healthy, long-term, and safe way you deserve.

3) They constantly seek validation

It’s not easy to hear this one, let alone admit it to yourself – trust me, I’ve been in the exact same situation before – but it’s a necessary step on your healing journey.

If you find that you thrive on external validation, it shows you probably didn’t get enough of it growing up.

From academic grades to work performance, financial income, economic status symbols, fashion sense, or beauty, you want to prove yourself to other people – and gain their admiration or approval as a result.

Mind you, this can go hand in hand with hyperindependence, but it can also completely diverge from it.

In fact, this is why the two most common insecure attachment styles are polar opposites.

While anxiously attached people cling on too tight, seeking validation as they do so, avoidants keep their distance. Whether they want validation on top of that depends on the individual.

If you want other people’s admiration, it’s another sign you probably got less attention than you deserved as a child. If you don’t, though, it doesn’t automatically exclude you from the game.

It just means you’ve got one less problem to deal with.

4) They struggle to express their needs

“Children who experienced trauma sometimes struggle to learn the same boundaries and behaviors that others take for granted,” writes psychotherapist Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS.

One such behavior is the act of expressing one’s needs and wants.

The unfortunate truth is that sometimes, it isn’t your partner or best friend who rejects you, takes you for granted, or disregards your desires.

It’s you who hasn’t expressed them in the first place.

In other words, you can’t expect people to read your mind. They don’t know that you need physical affection when you’re upset; they have no clue that their need for space makes you feel abandoned and alone.

Communication is of the utmost importance here.

Of course, people who received very little affection as children struggle with this because they most likely weren’t taught to communicate their needs and boundaries.

The good news is that these are skills that can be taught. I say that as someone who’s made a great deal of progress in the emotional maturity department.

5) They are scared of commitment and/or vulnerability

The reason I’ve included both “and” and “or” in the title section is that one can exist without the other.

I, for example, love to get vulnerable, especially in my romantic relationships. I want my partner to know all of me and I thrive on that feeling of emotional intimacy.

When it comes to making the decision to commit fully and possibly forever, though… That’s when I begin to feel uncomfortable.

  • What if I’m making the wrong decision?
  • What if I’ll regret it ten years later?
  • What if the person standing before me isn’t the right match?

The doubts begin to creep in, and before I know it, my brain’s on a hamster wheel of disastrous scenarios and worries.

If these fears resonate with you, it might be worth exploring The Vessel’s Love and Intimacy Masterclass.

Led by world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, this masterclass provides a safe space to dive deep into the roots of your fears and insecurities, helping you uncover and heal past traumas, cultivate self-love and acceptance, and build trust and intimacy in your relationships.

It could be the key to breaking free from the hamster wheel of doubt and experiencing true, lasting love.

Now, my friend, on the other hand, isn’t scared of external commitment in the form of a relationship or a marriage. She’s terrified of emotional intimacy taking place within those formal structures.

Some people are scared of one, others both. Whatever your case, it does signal there’s an issue underneath all your coping mechanisms.

Since you don’t trust people to love you consistently, you’re afraid of letting them in.

Because if you do… You might end up feeling just as invisible, disappointed, and betrayed as when you were a child.

6) They find conflict resolution incredibly difficult

Speaking of communication, conflict is an inevitable part of every relationship.

But tell that to those of us who grew up in such conflict-ridden dynamics that we’d rather avoid it at all costs, am I right?

I used to be a huge people-pleaser, so I know what I’m talking about. I hated conflict with passion. In fact, I preferred being bitter and passive-aggressive over addressing the issue itself.

And I paid too high a price – a few of my friendships fell apart, not because we didn’t put in the effort or fought too much but because I’d grown so bitter and resentful over time that I could no longer stand it.

If you didn’t get much attention as a child, there’s a high chance you’re like me. But you could also be on the other side of the spectrum and pick fights all the time just to get a bit of attention from the other person.

The general pattern, though, is that your approach to conflict resolution isn’t very healthy.

And you know what?

This is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, you weren’t taught how to deal with conflict in a productive manner, so why should you be expected to automatically know what to do?

Having said that, there comes a point when we all have to pull our socks up and heal what we didn’t break.

In other words, get learning. Get healing. Over time, conflict will become easier to handle.

7) They don’t give themselves the love and validation they need

Want to hear the number one solution that’s helped me become more securely attached, communicate my needs, and heal?

Inner child healing.

When I learned to embrace my grief, anger, and anxiety as something that came from the wounded child inside me, and when I decided to step up and validate that child’s pain, I made more progress than ever before.

Here’s why. 

Growing up, you received very little affection. This made you feel invisible, invalidated, and desperate to be heard and understood. But no matter what you did, you couldn’t accomplish that goal, and over time, you kind of… resigned.

In adulthood, we tend to either continue those patterns of resignation or seek that validation and love from other people, hoping they can give us what our caretakers didn’t.

But guess what?

The only person who can give you all the validation in the world is yourself. You will never feel seen if the adult inside you doesn’t learn to console the child.

It’s time to show yourself some love and compassion. It’s time to be the caretaker you wish you had.

It’s time to become the thing you need.

And if you’re struggling to give yourself the love and validation you deserve, The Vessel’s Self-Love Journey program can help.

Led by world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, this program offers a transformative path towards deeper self-understanding and acceptance.

By cultivating self-love and compassion, you can begin to heal from past wounds and develop a stronger sense of self-worth.

Sign up (as it’s currently running at a half-price discount!) to embrace your imperfections, set healthy boundaries, and create a life filled with love and purpose.

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.

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