Tag Archives: Fear Of Rejection And Abandonment

The Long-Term Effects of Parental Rejection

childhood trauma and parental rejection

My father walked out on my mother when I was eight. Always highly disturbed, my mother became yet worse, and threw me out of the house when I was thirteen. This made it necessary for me to go and live with my father and his new wife, where I was not wanted. Indeed, the sense of this was unremittingly palpable.

It pretty much goes without saying that both a mother’s and father’s acceptance of, and love for,  their child is of paramount importance in relation to (to give just 4 examples):

– how the child’s personality develops

– his self-image

– his self-esteem

– how he learns to relate to others

parental rejection

Being rejected by parent/s can have an enormously negative effect upon each of these. Not only can these effects last throughout childhood, but, without therapy, can extend years and years into adulthood ; in fact, they can last a lifetime.


Ronald Rohner, of the University of Conneticut, an expert on the effects of parental rejection, is quoted as saying the following on the subject :

‘In our half-century of international research, we’ve not found any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent effect upon personality development as does the experience of being rejected, especially by parents in childhood. Children and adults everywhere, regardless of differences in race, culture and gender, tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceive themselves to be rejected by their care-givers and other attachment figures.’

A major part of Ronald Rohner’s research was to carry out a meta-analysis (an analysis of a large number of studies – in this case 36 involving about 10,000 participants) of research, that had already been conducted by others, upon the effects of parental rejection. This analysis revealed, amongst many other things, the following :

1) the pain of having experienced parental rejection during childhood tends to extend into adulthood

2) those who have suffered parental rejection in childhood tend to develop difficulties forming trusting relationships in adulthood

3) neurological studies (studies of the physical brain) suggest that parental rejection activates the same part of the brain which is activated by the experience of physical pain.  (I myself remember telling various psychiatrists that I felt a perpetual extreme pain in my head, and, at the time, thought I was going crazy, especially as they offered no explanation. I am now relieved to have discovered the likely cause).

Indeed, Rohner goes on to explain that this type of pain can go on for years. This happened in my own case ; I was almost totally incapacitated – I very rarely left my flat, stopped practicing even the most basic form of self-care, was unable to read, or even watch television.


Contrary to popular belief, the effects of  a father’s rejection of a child can have at least as powerful an adverse effect on the child’s psychological development as rejection by the mother, according to Rohner’s review of the available evidence.


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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma : Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD). Part 1.



If our experiences of relationships in childhood are largely negative and painful, in extreme cases, we may develop social phobia as adults, or, in even more severe cases, avoidant personality disorder (APD).

What is APD?

APD is similar to generalized social phobia, but of greater intensity. The person who suffers from it tries to avoid social contact due to an underlying fear of being humiliated and rejected.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), which is a reference manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists to help in the diagnosis of mental disorders, lists the following symptoms of APD :

– a pervasive pattern of social inhibition

– feelings of inadequacy

– hypersensitivity to negative evaluation by others

– preoccupied with being criticized and rejected in social situations

– views self as socially inept, personally unappealing and inferior to others

– reluctant to take personal risks or engage in new activities which run the risk of embarrassing self

– avoidance of occupational activities that would involve a significant degree of social contact due to fear of criticism, disapproval or rejection

– reluctance to enter into intimate relationships fear of being shamed or ridiculed

Typically, APD starts to develop in early adulthood and it affects both males and females equally. Research by the psychologists Millon and Everly listed the main areas of functioning affected by APD in a person as :







Let’s briefly examine each of these areas in turn :

BEHAVIOUR : this will usually be withdrawn and wary, sometimes hostility may be displayed towards those who attempt to be friendly. Tendency to reject others before they can reject him/her.

SPEECH : tendency to remain silent in company

INTERPERSONAL CONDUCT : tends to mistrust others which leads to difficulty forming relationships. In the case whereby a relationship is started, the person with APD will tend to keep the other person at a distance, be reluctant to share feelings or to become in any other way vulnerable. General avoidance of intimacy.

COGNITIVE STYLE : the term cognitive style here refers to the kinds of thought processes and thought patterns the person with APD tends to undergo in social situations. There is a tendency towards excessive monitoring of how others are reacting to him/her, with possible signs of rejection being constantly looked for, to which s/he is highly sensitive – in other words, the person with APD is HYPERVIGILANT for signs of rejection, and, because s/he is also HYPERSENSITIVE to such signs, will often detect them when, objectively, they do not actually exist.

AFFECTIVE STYLE : the term affective style here refers to how the individual with APD tends to respond emotionally during social interaction. S/he will tend to show little emotion in such situations due to fear that this will make him/her vulnerable to rejection and humiliation (Kantor et al). To others, the individual with APD may appear tense and anxious (Millon et al).

SELF-PERCEPTION : Individuals who suffer from APD tend to have low self-esteem, feel inferior to others, feel unworthy of being in a relationship, be extremely self-conscious and lonely. Furthermore, they tend to view any accomplishments they may have to their name as of little or no value (Millon et al).



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery