Childhood Trauma: The Possible Effects of Uninvolved Parents


The psychologists Baumrind, Maccobyand Martin have, between them, identified four main types of parenting style. These are : a) Authoritarian, b) Authoritative, c) Permissive and, d) Uninvolved. In this article, I wish to concentrate on the fourth parenting style – UNINVOLVED,  as the research indicates that it is this one that does the greatest damage to the child.



Whilst such parents provide for the child’s basic, physical needs (ie food and shelter), they will typically display the following characteristics :

– lack an emotional connection to their children

– distant and aloof

– frequently attempt to avoid their children

– indifferent to and dismissive of many of the child’s fundamental needs (eg to be shown love and emotional warmth)

– disinterested in important areas of their children’s lives, such as their friends, their interests/hobbies. their school work/behaviour at school, how much alcohol they drink etc

– uncaring about how their child behaves in general, offering no, or, at best, minimal, supervision

–  often uninterested in their children due to a preoccupation with their own concerns (eg career ambition, relationship difficulties etc)



The research suggests that being the child of uninvolved parents can lead to a large array of problems touching most of the important areas of life. These include :

– a greater proneness to stress and anxiety

– an increased risk of alcohol and/or drug abuse

– more likely to develop problematic behaviours/delinquancy

– tend to perform less well academically

– more likely to have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships (theorized to be due to not learning how to display love, warmth and affection from parents)

– tend to have poorer social skills

IMPORTANT NOTE : Of course, not all individuals who have been brought up by uninvolved parents wil experience the difficulties listed above – the research simply suggests such individuals are likely to be more vulnerable to developing such problems. Also, some individuals who are brought up by uninvolved parents have important, significant, strong positive and validating relationships outside of the immediate family which can have a  PROTECTIVE EFFECT.

A NOTE ON THE RELIABILITY OF THE RESEARCH : It should also be noted that the findings listed above, in the main, derive from correlational studies which do not prove direct cause and effect between parents being uninvolved and their offspring developing the problems listed. Inevitably, other factors will be involved, such as how much emotional support the individual has outside of the family, as alluded to above.


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

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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