Women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents usually develop these 7 traits later in life

Growing up with emotionally unavailable parents can have a lasting impact, especially on daughters.

Often, this early experience shapes how they navigate relationships and perceive their own self-worth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to lay blame or point fingers.

Instead, my goal is to shed some light on patterns that often emerge in women who grew up in this type of environment.

This understanding can be a tool for self-awareness and growth. And who knows? Maybe it’ll spark some much-needed conversations.

So, let’s dive into the 7 common traits women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents usually develop later in life.

1) Heightened sensitivity

A common trait seen in women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents is heightened sensitivity.

Now, sensitivity isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be a beautiful quality that allows for deep empathy and understanding.

However, in this context, heightened sensitivity often stems from an instinctive need to be hyper-aware of others’ emotions.

Growing up, these women had to constantly gauge their parents’ moods and reactions. This was their way of navigating the unstable emotional environment.

As adults, this heightened sensitivity often remains. They might find themselves overly attuned to the emotional currents around them, always ready to adjust their behavior to keep peace or avoid conflict.

It’s not an easy way to live and can lead to exhaustion and burnout if not managed carefully. But understanding this trait is the first step towards managing it better.

2) Emotional detachment

Ironically, while some women develop heightened sensitivity, others may swing the other way and develop a certain level of emotional detachment.

This might seem counterintuitive, but hear me out.

When emotional availability was lacking in their formative years, some women adapt by emotionally distancing themselves. This is a self-preservation mechanism to avoid getting hurt or disappointed.

In their adult lives, this could manifest as difficulty in forming deep connections with others, or a tendency to keep people at arm’s length.

They may also struggle with expressing their own emotions, simply because they never had a safe space to do so growing up.

The challenge here is to recognize this pattern and work towards opening up emotionally in a safe and healthy way.

3) The tendency towards codependency

Another trait that women with emotionally unavailable parents often develop is a tendency towards codependency.

Codependency is when one person in a relationship becomes so focused on the needs of the other that they neglect their own well-being. It’s a pattern that often stems from trying to win the affection of an emotionally distant parent.

In adult relationships, this can lead to an unhealthy dynamic where the person constantly seeks validation and approval from their partner.

I’ve seen this pattern frequently in my work as a relationship expert. And I’ve also written about it extensively in my book, Breaking The Attachment: How To Overcome Codependency in Your Relationship.

The good news is that recognition is the first step towards breaking this cycle. By understanding where these tendencies come from, we can start working towards healthier relationship patterns.

4) Perfectionism

Perfectionism is another common trait seen in women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents.

From a young age, they may have felt that they needed to be perfect to earn their parents’ affection or approval. This can lead to a lifelong pursuit of perfection, where any mistake feels like a personal failure.

As an adult, they may still feel overwhelming pressure to always get things right, often at the cost of their own mental and emotional wellbeing.

I often remind myself and those I work with of the words from renowned author, Brene Brown: “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

Embracing our imperfections and letting go of the need for perfection can be a liberating journey towards self-acceptance and healthier relationships.

5) Difficulty trusting others

Trust can be a tricky thing for women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents.

Their early experiences may have taught them that those who are supposed to love and protect them can also let them down. This can create a deep-seated fear of vulnerability and a struggle to trust others.

When they grow up, this can continue in the form skepticism, cynicism, or even constant second-guessing in their relationships. It can be a major hurdle to forming meaningful and intimate connections.

In my own journey, I’ve learned that building trust is a process. It’s about finding the courage to be vulnerable with others, even when it feels scary. It’s also about learning to trust ourselves – trusting that we’re strong enough to handle whatever comes our way.

6) The struggle with self-esteem

Self-esteem often takes a hit when you grow up with emotionally unavailable parents.

The constant feeling of not being good enough can seep into your adult life and influence your self-perception.

This can result in self-doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and a struggle to recognize and celebrate your own achievements.

It’s in moments like these that I like to remember the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Building self-esteem is a journey of self-love and acceptance. It’s about embracing our strengths, acknowledging our worth, and realizing we are deserving of love and respect.

7) Fear of abandonment

Lastly, growing up with emotionally unavailable parents can instill a deep-seated fear of abandonment.

In their early years, these women may have constantly felt the threat of emotional abandonment. The people they relied on for emotional support were often distant or unresponsive.

And now in their adult lives, this fear can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They may push people away before they get too close, or cling too tightly for fear of being left again.

This fear is raw and real. But acknowledging it is the first step towards healing and forming healthier relationships.


Our upbringing plays a significant role in shaping who we become as adults. Women who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents often grapple with the traits we’ve explored in this piece. They’re raw, very real, and can be tough to navigate.

But remember, acknowledging these traits is the first step towards healing, growth, and healthier relationships.

In my work as a relationship expert, I’ve found that understanding these dynamics can pave the way for profound personal development and growth. It’s about taking the lessons from our past and using them to build a better future.

To delve deeper into this, I highly recommend watching this insightful video by Justin Brown. He discusses the complexities of finding a life partner, reflecting on his personal experience and the lessons he learned. From understanding the importance of shared values to the significance of growth and mutual support in a relationship, he shares his top insights to help you navigate your own journey.

In closing, remember: you are not defined by your past. But understanding it can empower you to create a healthier, happier future.

If you found this piece insightful and want to keep up with my latest articles, do follow me on Facebook. Let’s continue this journey of understanding and growth together.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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