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. So, what are the long-term effects of parental rejection?
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
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), such as Eiseberger et al., 2004, suggest that parental rejection activates the same part of the brain which is activated by the experience of physical pain. as there appears to be a common neural alarm system that responds to both physical and social 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.
A NOTE ON FATHERS :
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.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).