What Are The Effects Of Workaholic Parents On Children?
‘Workaholism’ can be seen as an obsessive behaviour or an addiction. ‘Workaholics’ tend to base their self-worth on their career success and how much money they earn.
Dedication and commitment to work also give many a psychologically necessary sense of control when other areas of their lives (for example, their relationships) feel substantially less under their control.
Also, the social status some ‘workaholics’ believe their career success confers on them may compensate in their minds, to some degree, for aspects of themselves that they believe to be inadequate.
However, when a parent is obsessed with his/her work, this may result in his/her children becoming emotionally neglected and made to feel ‘invisible’. This can lead such children to infer that they ‘are not worthy of attention’ and are ‘unimportant.’ They may feel they are largely ignored due to being ‘intrinsically unlovable’ and of ‘little value or interest’; merely a ‘non-entity.’
Parents who are preoccupied with their own success may fail to pay any attention to, or display any interest in, their child’s successes. This can lead to the child thinking that anything s/he achieves is trivial, unimportant and a matter of complete indifference; this, in turn, is likely to lead to low self-esteem and a poor sense of self-worth.
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Often, the ‘workaholic’ parent will be a good provider in the material sense, whilst being a poor provider in the emotional sense. This can leave the child in the position of harbouring ambivalent feelings toward the parent – gratitude for the material provision and resentment due to the lack of emotional provision. This may well give rise to feelings of confusion and guilt in the child. This may well especially be the case if the parent claims (and this may be a false or self-deceiving claim) that all his/her hard work is solely to benefit the child.
The child of the workaholic parent often also finds that if s/he complains about his/her home life s/he will gain little sympathy or understanding from others. Indeed, these others may see him/her as privileged and ungrateful if s/he attempts to complain; indeed, they may, perhaps, respond with trite statements such as, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’ or, worse still, ‘You spoilt little brat.’ Such responses will leave the child feeling very isolated and unable to share his/her emotional pain.
It is also possible that, like outsiders, the child may be blinded by the parent’s generous provision of material comfort and not be aware s/he is being emotionally neglected. Therefore, if the emotional neglect leads to the child developing psychological difficulties such as excessive drinking, drug-taking or other problem behaviours s/he will not understand the real cause of these problems (ie. s/he will lack insight) but, instead, wrongly blame him/herself for them, possibly leading to depression, inwardly directed anger and low self-esteem.
‘Workaholic’ parents, then, tend to harm their children by what they don’t do (ie. pay their children sufficient attention) rather than by what they do do. In this regard, it is important to remember the acts of omission may be as detrimental to a child’s welfare as acts of commission.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSC; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.