5 signs your childhood has shaped your adult behaviors

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Childhood has a funny way of catching up to us, even in ways we least expect it.

Cool, you’re 35 now. You don’t have someone to tell you when to go to bed, and you can eat ice cream until you’re sick. 

But whether or not we like it, and whether or not we’re conscious of it, our formative years have a huge influence on our adult lives.

From our earliest memories to how our parents behaved and raised us, to the role models we attached ourselves to: these all impact the adults we grow up to become.

And some of the ways in which these behaviors manifest can be weird as hell.

You might not even be aware of the ways your childhood has shaped you.

Whichever the case, let’s dive into the 5 signs that your childhood has shaped who you are today:

1) Spoilt rotten (and it shows)

Certainly not applicable to all, but if you grew up in an environment where you were given exactly what you wanted and showered with affection, your adult life can be a bit of a slap in the face.

You might still be getting exactly what you want and being showered with affection, which, if the case, I’m happy for.

But what’s likely is that growing up so entitled, you’ll later encounter great difficulties when things don’t go according to plan. 

You don’t get what you want. 

People don’t listen to you.

People don’t grant you that affection you’re used to.

Failing to learn lessons in how to navigate rejection or setbacks leads to an underdevelopment in the ability to cope with these situations when they arise. 

In turn, this can create an immense co-dependency on others to swoop in and save the day, or anxiety owing to having no idea how to deal with things going wrong.

2) Fears and phobias

I love dogs. A big fluffy golden retriever currently nestles snoring softly under my toes as I write this.

But I understand the flinching and sudden terror that crosses the faces of passers-by as he frolics through the park.

My friend was bitten by a dog at a young age. It tore a huge chunk out of her forearm, leaving her with a nasty scar.

She remains terrified of dogs, big and small. My golden boy has helped in easing her fear and she knows that not all dogs are the same.

Yet she can’t help but carry a lifelong fear of them.

These types of events occurring in our formative years leave huge, lifelong imprints. 

Some aren’t explainable in the same way.

If I’m honest, the dark still scares me a little bit (even if I don’t have a nightlight anymore, at the ripe old age of 26). 

But traumatic events such as abuse, illness, accidents, and a whole range of other experiences have a lasting effect.

For many, that trauma is something that reappears at a later date.

In many cases, it will need to be addressed as repressed trauma can develop into other issues such as addiction or mental health disorders.

 (Can’t help you with spider-phobia, though. I’m not sure anyone’s found a cure yet).

3) Sibling experience vs only-child syndrome

I’m technically an only-child, but I have three older half-siblings.

They endlessly tease me about my inability to endure being teased or to share.

Snacks, in particular.

I have absolutely no understanding as to why if I walk to the kitchen and fetch myself a cookie, I should give my brother half.

Yet there seems to be an unspoken rule in the sibling code of conduct that said cookie is up for grabs. Apparently, me walking back to the kitchen to retrieve a second cookie for him isn’t good enough. It must be that cookie.

You’ve likely also heard the stereotypes:

  • Oldest child: the protector, the responsible one, the natural leader, sometimes the ‘third-parent’.
  • Middle child: the one that gets left out and overlooked, and sometimes ends up acting out and rebelling in a bid for attention.
  • Youngest child: the free-spirited one, the risk-taker and the charmer. (By this time, the parents are often over having strict rules and being overly cautious, so they tend to let the youngest get away with everything).

Stereotypes are just that; they don’t apply to everyone.

But if you grew up in a big family or as an only-child, this has likely shaped many of your behaviors in regards to how you form relationships and how you interact with others.

4) Your role models and how you take after them

Remember when you were little, when you had to present your role model in class?

Who did you say at the time?

Would you say the same answer today?

The people we looked up to and placed on a pedestal in our youth have a huge impact on our behaviors.

These figures are often our parents. 

And certain characteristics such as being quick to temper or easily stressed can carry on to our own behaviors; both in a nature and nurture sense. 

Plus, who knows. Maybe your role model was Spongebob and you still get a little kick of butterflies every time you spot a squirrel.

5) Moving around and making friends

I moved around a fair bit as a child. Seven schools, in total.

Having to restart the whole introducing yourself and making friends basically every year took its toll then, and apparently still takes its toll now.

Research also backs up the correlation between frequent moves during childhood and several negative consequences.

The immediate implications include suffering academic performance, which could also have led you to perform poorly at school and have thus been held back in reaching your potential.

On top of that, researchers noted an association between children who moved around frequently and a decrease in quality social relationships as adults.

Which makes perfect sense.

A frequent mover myself, the constant upheaval, new uniforms, and stress of having to suss out a new school hierarchy and somehow insert myself has meant that I tended to shift to stay in the shadows.

This introversion and lack of confidence has carried on to my adult life, as it has no doubt for many other children who experienced frequent upheavals and changes.

Final words

This only dabbles in the many ways in which our childhood can leave a heavy imprint on our adult lives.

In many ways, we carry quirky behaviors and fun traditions from our parents and grandparents. The light and life of our ancestors can bring with it beautiful things; but in turn, it can do a lot of harm.

The manifestation of childhood trauma or negative experiences in adult life can be challenging, particularly as it takes a great deal of self-reflection and often therapeutic intervention to understand.

But remember that as humans, we constantly grow and evolve. 

Whilst we cannot change the past, we can learn to unlearn the lessons and scars it has left us with.

We can heal our inner child.

In doing so, we have the power to foster true change and grow into the individuals we want to become.

If you recognize these 8 behaviors, you’re dealing with a subtle manipulator

If you genuinely enjoy helping others, you probably have these 10 traits