How Emotionally Immature Parents Can Impact You

“I had a great childhood – my parents never hit me.” Physical and sexual violence are often how we qualify whether we had a positive or negative childhood, but the spectrum of harm/benefit is much broader. 

The concept of the emotionally immature parent was introduced by psychologist Lindsay Gibson in her book of the same name. She addressed the dilemma so many people face – while their parents weren’t overtly abusive, there was still a lingering sense that something was off. 

You may have an emotionally immature parent if you:

  • Experienced frequent criticism and tried to be perfect to earn praise
  • Currently struggle with perfectionism
  • Withheld your own feelings from your parent(s) out of fear of a negative, rejecting, or minimizing reaction
  • Felt that your parent’s love and acceptance was conditional
  • You parent(s) seemed like a different person in public versus at home
  • Your parent(s) become defensive whenever you try to address conflict or ask for change.

Getting Support

While it would be great if we could get all of our caregivers to go to therapy to become healthier, more accountable humans, we all know that isn’t going to happen. Where our caregivers can’t make changes, we can.

Exploring the impact of an emotionally immature parent can involve the following steps:

  • Identifying the messages we learned from parents that shape our current relationships
  • Exploring our relationship with anger, fear, and love
  • Experimenting with boundaries
  • Learning self-compassion
  • Re-parenting ourselves

Learn More


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