A Study Into The Adverse Effects Of Psychologically Controlling Parents

A study (Stafford et al.) conducted at University College, London suggests that individuals who have been brought up by psychologically controlling parents during their childhoods are at significantly greater risk of suffering from mental health problems in later life than those brought up by less psychologically controlling parents.


  • invading the child’s privacy
  • encouraging the child to be excessively dependent
  • not allowing the child to make his / her own decisions


The study tracked 5,632 individuals from their birth in 1946, all were from the U.K. Information was gathered via questionnaires about their relationships with their parents and, also, about their mental health during the following periods of their life :

  • adolescence
  • their 30s
  • their 40s
  • and when they were between the ages of 60 and 64.
A Study Into The Adverse Effects Of Psychologically Controlling Parents 1

What Specific Problems Can Those Brought Up By Psychologically Controlling Parents Develop?

According to the study, those brought up by psychologically controlling parents can develop various problems including :

In combination, the above factors had a powerful and enduring adverse effect upon the individuals’ mental well-being throughout their lives.

What Types Of Parental Behavior Help To Ensure Their Off-Springs’ Mental Well-Being :

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that the most important parental behaviors that help to ensure their off-springs’ mental well-being were their care (e.g. listening to, and displaying understanding of, the child’s problems), warmth, friendliness and responsiveness.

Comparing The Effects Of The Mothers’ Treatment Of Their Children And The Farhers’ Treatment Of Their Children :

CHILDHOOD TO MIDDLE-AGE : the mothers’ and the fathers’ care were found in the study to be of equal importance during these stages of the individuals’ lives.

DURING THE INDIVIDUALS’ LATER LIVES : the fathers’ level of care had a greater positive impact on their mental well-being in comparison to the mothers’ level of care.


The researchers concluded that, given the vital role parents (both mothers and fathers) play in the mental health of their children, government policies need to reflect this by helping parents reduce their stress via economic interventions and the encouragement of a healthy work-life balance, thus providing them with more time and energy to develop positive relationships with their children, which, in turn, should help to produce mentally healthier adults.

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

Childhood Trauma Leading To Over-Dominant Brain Stem

A Simple Overview Of The Brain’s Structure And Development :

A simplified way of describing the structure of the brain is to think of it as comprising three main regions that develop in the following order from birth to a person’s early or mid-twenties.

Childhood Trauma Leading To Over-Dominant Brain Stem 2

FIRST TO DEVELOP : The brain stem and mid-brain :

Main functions : Sensory / motor and basic survival mechanisms (‘fight / flight’)

SECOND TO DEVELOP : The limbic brain :

Main functions : Emotional development, behavior and attachment

THIRD TO DEVELOP : The cortical brain :

Main function : inhibition, thinking, language, planning, decision-making, abstract thought and learning


As described above, it is the brain stem’s function to preserve our safety in dangerous situations (by physiologically preparing us for ‘fight or flight‘).

However, when a chid has been traumatized over an extended period and has been excessively exposed to frightening situations, the brain stem can become overative and over-dominant so that the brain is on a constant state of ‘red-alert’ (giving rise to feelings of hypervigilance, edginess, agitation and constant fear) even in situations which are, in objective terms, very safe.

IN SHORT, THE CHILD BECOMES ‘LOCKED INTO SURVIVAL MODE’, primed to lash out (figuratively or literally) or run away (again, figuratively or literally). And, of course, in the case of the former, rhis can lead to him / her being wrongly labelled as ‘bad’ whereas, in fact, his or her behavior is essentially due to what can reasonably described as brain injury incurred due to the traumatic events to which s/he has been subjected.


Such children are, in effect, ‘stuck’ at the first stage of brain development shown above (i.e. the brain stem / mid brain developmental stage).

Unfortunately, this means the child is not only locked into feeling constantly hyperalert to perpetually anticipated danger and profoundly unsafe, but can suffer from other significant impairments (see below):


Being locked into the brain stem development stage also prevents the higher regions of the brain (i.e. the limbic brain and the cortical brain, as described above) from developing properly, and, therefore, also from functioning properly.

This can mean that the child is unable to form attachments or control his/her emotions (due to the damage done to the ‘limbic brain‘ ) and is also unable to propely perform the functions of the ‘cortical brain’, including : inhibition (thus leading to impulsive behavior) planning, decision-making, reflecting and learning. Such problems can manifest themselves in numerous ways, including being unable to form friendships at school, ‘mis-behaving’ in class and learning difficulties)


Bottom-Up’ (as opposed to ‘Top-Down’) therapies such as SENSORIMOTOR PSYCHOTHERAPY can be of benefit to individuals affected by ‘brain stem’ associated problems and it is generally agreed that these problems should be addressed prior to addressing problems associated with the ‘limbic brain’ and ‘cortical brain’ in order to give the latter the greatest chance of success.

eBook :

Childhood Trauma Leading To Over-Dominant Brain Stem 3
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Remission In Sufferers Of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

We have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site that those individuals who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are at greatly elevated risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) compared to those who were fortunate enough to experience relatively stable and secure childhoods.

We have also seen how devastating to a person’s life living with BPD can be (indeed, research suggests that approximately one in ten sufferers of the condition will end up dying by suicide due to the psychological agony the condition can give rise to, and far more than one in ten sufferers will attempt suicide).

However, more positively, a study carried out by Zanarini et al. suggests a very significant proportion of BPD sufferers achieve long-term remission or even full recovery.


Remission In Sufferers Of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 4

The study spanned 10 myears and started off with 290 participants, all of whom had received a BPD diagnosis. At the end of the ten year period, there remained 249 participants because :

  • 12 had committed suicide
  • 7 had died of other causes
  • 9 withdrew from the study
  • 13 could not be traced


Out of the remaining 249 participants :




(N.B. For the purposes of the study, ‘FULL RECOVERY’ was defined as BOTH remission of symptoms AND the ability to function socially and vocationally. To be considered to have achieved the ability to function socially, the minimum requirement was that the individual should have at least one ‘emotionally sustainable relationship‘ with a non-family member. To be considered to have achieved ability to function vocationally, the individual needed to demonstrate the ability to work full-time in a competent and consistent manner).


According to Zanarini, the symptoms of BPD which remit most quickly are self-harm and suicidal ideation (which standard treatments for BPD tend to be particularly focused upon) whereas problems with anger and abandonment issues are least likely to remit (Zanarini speculates that persistent anger and abandonment issues may be attributable to ingrained temperamental difficulties and that it is the persitence of these which prevent proper social and vocational functioning, thus precluding full recovery in about [according to this study’s criteria] about half of all cases).

Nevertheless, the fact that, according to this study, many can recover fully from BPD and many more can achieve significant and long-lasting remission from symptoms is extremely encouraging.

For more information about BPD and treatment options, I recommend you visit this page of the NHS website.

eBook :

Remission In Sufferers Of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 5

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon; to view further details, click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

‘Top-Down’ And ‘Bottom-Up’ Approaches To Dealing With Effects Of Childhood Trauma.


A ‘top-down’ therapy is one that aims to create a positive change in the individual’s behavioral, emotional and somatic symptoms in a ‘top-down’ direction (i.e. by beneficially ALTERING THE INDIVIDUAL’S THOUGHT PROCESSES). Techniques for doing this include cognitive restructuring and increasing the traumatized individual’s insight into his or her condition, amongst many others.

Whilst ‘top-down’ therapies are necessary, and can be very effective, there is now a growing realization, when treating the traumatized individual, the addition of ‘bottom-up’ therapeutic techniques may be of paramount importance in relation to treating the bodily adverse effects of trauma such as sensorimotor symptoms and autonomic dysregulation.

'Top-Down' And 'Bottom-Up' Approaches To Dealing With Effects Of Childhood Trauma. 6


Unlike ‘top-down’ therapies, which concentrate on an individual’s thinking processess to treat the effects of trauma, ‘bottom-up’ therapies concentrate upon BODILY EXPERIENCES as an initial route through which to treat the effects of trauma by ameliorating dysfunctional trauma-related, chronic and automatic bodily responses. This approach is taken because it is theorized that our nervous systems and muscles store distressing images and memories on a unconscious, nonverbal level and that this is manifested in various physical and bodily ways, such as :

  • body posture

In essence, then, ‘bottom-up’ approaches to the treatment of the adverse effects trauma aim is to correct the sensorimotor dysregulation that has occurred as a result of childhood trauma. (In relation to this, you may also wish to read my previously published article entitled : OFTEN AGGRESSIVE? HAS YOUR SENSORIMOTOR SYSTEM BEEN PRIMED BY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA TO DEAL WITH THREAT?’)

Examples of ‘bottom-up’ therapies for treating the bodily effects of trauma include :

  • sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • drama
  • singing
  • drumming

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

Childhood Trauma Increases Frequency Of ‘Negative Events In Daily Life’ In Middle Age.

A study conducted by Infuma et al., (2015) suggests that those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma suffer significantly more problems and disturbances in their daily life, as well as more dysfunctional reactions to such problems and disturbances, during middle-age and beyond (when compared to those who have been fortunate enough to avoid the experience of significant childhood trauma).

This adds to the already enormous amount of evidence suggesting that the adverse effects of childhood trauma, both physical and psychological, in the absence of appropriate, effective therapy, can last for years, decades, or, indeed, a whole lifetime (for example, see my article about the ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACE) STUDY).

The study required the participants to keep a daily diary for a total of 30 days and record within it of NEGATIVE EVENTS, POSITIVE EVENTS and CHANGES IN WELL-BEING AS A RESULT OF THESE EVENTS.


Those who had experienced significant childhood trauma would REPORT MORE NEGATIVE EVENTS each day, and LESS ENGAGEMENT WITH POSITIVE EVENTS each day, than participants who had NOT experienced significant childhood trauma.


Those who had experienced significant childhood trauma would REPORT HIGHER LEVELS OF EMOTIONAL REACTIVITY TO BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EVENTS that occurred each day than participants who had NOT experienced significant childhood trauma.

For both NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE EVENTS that the participants recorded in their diaries, participants were required to make a note of which of the following categories the event fell into :

  • Spouse / Partner
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Work Finances
  • Health
  • Other
Childhood Trauma Increases Frequency Of 'Negative Events In Daily Life' In Middle Age. 7


  • Those who had experienced childhood trauma had a 43 per cent increased likelihood of reporting a daily negative event on any particular day.
  • Those with HIGHER LEVELS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, on average, experienced daily negative events on 66 per cent of the 30 days, whereas for those with LOWER LEVELS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA this figure fell to an average of 50 per cent.
  • The more childhood trauma that a participant had experienced, the stronger his emotional reactivity, and consequential reduction in well-being, to NEGATIVE EVENTS FOCUSED UPON FRIENDS AND HEALTH.


  • The more childhood trauma the participant had experienced, the greater his increase in positive emotions in response to positive events focused upon spouse / partner, family, friends and work.


Extrapolating from the above figures, these results suggesr that

  • Over the period of a year, those who have experienced significant childhood trauma experience negative events on 60 more days (on average) each year than those who have experienced little or no childhood trauma.
  • Those who have experienced significant childhood trauma experienced greater emotional reactivity to both positive and negative events than those who have experienced little or no childhood trauma.


The researchers also suggested that the differences found between those who had experienced significant childhood trauma and those who had not, as described above, may help to explain why individuals who have experienced significant childhood trauma, on average, suffer worse physical health than those who have not (in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : How Childhood Trauma Can Reduce Life Expectany By 19 Years). This is because previous research has shown that daily stressors, over time, can, cumatively, have a seriously damaging effect upon our physical health (both directly – by increasing the level of damaging hormones such as cortisol in our blood stream – and indirectly – by increasing the likelihood that we will turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking, smoking and drug-taking).

It may also be the case that the increased emotional reactivity that those who have experienced significant childhood trauma show in response to negative daily events and the associated increased activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system may also adversely impact upon health (although increased reactivity to positive events may off-set this to some degree), according to the researchers.

Finally, the fact that those who have experienced significant childhood trauma show increased reactivity to positive daily events and that this may off-set, to some degree, physiological damage caused by increased reactivity to negative events, suggests, according to the researchers, that for those seeking therapy this finding could be exploited by encouraging such individuals to undertake more pleasurable activities by using therapeutic techniques such as behavioral activation.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

A Study Into Effects Of Being Raised By A Mentally Ill Parent


A study conducted by McCormack (Newcastle University, UK) interviewed the (now adult) children of children of parents who had various mental illnesses (such as depression and schizoaffective disorder.

The researches found that the information they gathered could be distilled down into various main effects which were as follows :

1) Concerns about be loved, cared for and wanted, leading to feelings of loneliness, helplessness, abandonment and of being ignored.

2) Traumatization, stress and anxiety : some individuals in the study reported being neglected and abused and of living in an environment that was very frightening over extended periods of time and that this had significantly traumatized them, leading to severe anxiety and hypervigilance.

3) Feelings of having been betrayed, due to the failure of both parents to protect them and make them feel safe (in the case of the non-mentally ill parent, the sense of betrayal derived from this parent’s failure to protect them from the harmful effects of the mentally ill parent).

4) Guilt, sadness and self blame : sadly, children living in abusive homes almost invariably, irrationally blame themselves for this abuse and falsely believe that they ‘must be a bad person which, in turn, leads to profound feelings of shame.

5) Parentification / adopting role of child carer to the mentally ill parent. The child of the mentally ill parent may become ‘parentified’ ; this involves a role-reversal whereby the child is placed into the position whereby he is required to act as the parent’s parent.

6) Avoidance, development of strategies to stay safe and associated hypervigilance.Children in abusive homes learn strategies to keep themselves as safe as possible ; these include : placating the patent, avoiding the parent (for example when the parent is drunk or experiencing a violent, psychotic episode). However, the price they pay for the development of such strategies is the need to be permanently on ‘red-alert’ and on the look out for signs of potential danger (hypervigilance).

7) Development of empathy, compassion and resilience. Some individuals in the study reported that, as well as negative effects, their childhood experiences also had some positive effects, including helping them to develop feelings of empathy and compassion and, also, increasing their resilience. (When the experience of trauma ultimately helps the individual grow and develop as a person in positive ways, it is known as posttraumatic growth.)

8) Regarding school as a refuge (although children who are abused at home can be more vulnerable to being bullied at school).

9) Feelings of being stigmatized : for example, the child can feel terrified that their peers at school will find out that their parent has a mental health issue and, as a result, subject him to bullying, ridicule and mockery. Indeed, this can lead to irrational, profound feelings of shame. Also, the feeling of desperately having to keep their unfortunate home situation a secret exacerbated their sense of extreme anxiety.

9) Self-hatred transitioning into self-acceptance and wisdom : many of the participants reported that whilst, as children, their traumatic experiences had led them to feel a sense of irrational shame and self-hatred, as they became adults and developed a better understanding of how these experiences had adversely impacted on their lives they were able to develop a liberating sense of self-acceptance.

A Study Into Effects Of Being Raised By A Mentally Ill Parent 8


Approximately 68 per cent of women and 57 per cent of men with a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar depression are parents.

(Source : Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).



Other research suggests that children living with a parent with mental illness may :

– fear that they themselves will one day go on to develop the same mental illness (some children do develop a similar illness and emotional problems).

– find it difficult to concentrate on their school work

– develop somatic illnesses

(Source : Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).


  • the child believes he is to blame for the parent’s illness.
  • the child develops a similar condition.
  • the child does not have a proper understanding of their parent’s illness.
  • the child is repeatedly separated from the parent because this parent is regularly being hospitalized.
  • the child feels insecure and unsure about his relationship with the mentally ill parent.
  • the child is being hit or otherwise abused by the mentally ill parent.
  • the child is having to act as the mentally ill parent’s caretaker or his having to care for younger siblings due to the parent’s mental illness.
  • the child is being bullied or teased at school because of their parent’s mental illnesslive in povertyhave an unstable life.

(Source : Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).


USEFUL LINK : How To Help Children Of Mentally Ill Parents (an NSPCC website). CLICK HERE.

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








Signs Of PTSD In Very Young Children And Toddlers

What Are The Signs Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Very Young Children And Toddlers?

Because the linguistic development of very young children and toddlers is so restricted, they are unable to articulate their distress in anything other than a very rudimentary way ; therefore, in order to infer whether they are suffering from PTSD, it is necessary to observe their behavior and emotional expression.

These behavioral and emotional reactions to trauma will, of course, vary between individuals, both in terms of the number displayed and their intensity. Clearly, all else being equal, the greater the number of symptoms and the more severe such symptoms are, the greater the imperative for therapeutic intervention.

Possible signs of PTSD in very young children and toddlers include the following :

Signs Of PTSD In Very Young Children And Toddlers 9

Above : Brain scan showing difference between the brain of a ‘normal’ three-year-old and a severely traumatized (in this case, due to extreme neglect) three-year-old.

  • disrupted sleep pattern
  • physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches
  • developmental regression ; the child may regress to an earlier stage of development and, as a result, lose some learned skills (e.g. toilet training).
  • post-traumatic play : this can manifest itself as repetetive play that mirrors the events of the original trauma. For example, a child involved in a car crash may repetetively play with toy cars in a way that reenacts the accident. Also, traumatized children may dramatically reduce their ‘exploratory’ play.
  • over-sensitive startle response ; the child may become extremely startled and fearful in response to unexpected events, including trivial ones that would not have bothered him before the trauma, especially, of course, if the unexpected event triggers memories (on either a conscious or unconscious level) of the original traumatizing experience.
  • obsessive preoccupations ; the child may become obsessed by a particular toy or cartoon character, for example.
  • acute separation anxiety ; represented as intense fear of being separated from the primary caregiver.
  • reactions as if the traumatic experience is recurring, which, in extreme cases, can manifest itself losing awareness of present surroundings (also referred to as ‘dissociation’)
  • habitual avoidance of activities, places and other reminders associated with the original traumatic experience
  • mood changes, including outbursts of rage and anger, extreme tantrums, aggression, irratability, marked reduction in expression of positive emotions
  • deterioration in relationships with significant others such as parents, caregivers and peers, increased wariness of strangers, ‘clingyness.’
  • impaired concentration
  • socially withdrawn behavior
  • fears of things that might seem unconnected to the trauma but are actually representative and symbolic of it ; for example, a fear of an imaginary monster (that represents, on an unconscious level, someone who has harmed the child).

eBook :

Signs Of PTSD In Very Young Children And Toddlers 10

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

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

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