Childhood emotional neglect tends to operate ‘below the radar’ as it’s more a matter of what the parents don’t do than it is about what they do. In other words, it tends to be an act of omission as opposed to an act of commission. Because of this, it frequently remains undetected, and the child, not knowing anything different, may well not be aware that s/he is being mistreated.
Nevertheless, the adverse effects of childhood emotional neglect can be very serious and when the neglected child becomes an adult s/he may find s/he has a number of psychological problems but remains oblivious as to their origins (ie the fact that they significantly stem from the emotional neglect s/he suffered as a child).
So what are the psychological symptoms of having been emotionally neglected as a child? According to a leading authority on this area of study, Dr Webb, they include the following:
– a deep sense of being a fundamentally flawed individual
– difficulty self-soothing (comforting self when distressed)
– a preference for solitude/own company
– feel like an outsider
– often feel unhappy without knowing why
– often feel irritable without knowing why
– find it easier to express affection towards animals than towards humans
– have a poor view of self
– feel inadequate and essentially inferior to others
– highly self-critical
– feel awkward in social situations
– regarded by others as being distant and aloof
– feel a strong need to be self-reliant/ find it difficult to ask others for help and support
– frequently feel angry and/or disappointed with self
– when with family and friends have feelings of not belonging
NB : Webb (see above) concedes that these observations come from her two decade experience working with those who have suffered emotional neglect as children, rather than from rigorously controlled scientific experimentation.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).