Growing Up In A Step-Family : Possible Negative Effects


Growing Up In A Step-Family :

My father remarried when I was eleven and a couple of years later, having been forced to leave my mother’s house, I went to live with him and his new wife (now my step-mother) and her biological son from a previous relationship. I have written about this elsewhere, so won’t repeat myself here. Suffice it to say it was a highly dysfunctional household.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, step families are at greater risk of being dysfunctional than are ‘nuclear’ families (families in which the children live with both their biological parents).

Research conducted by McLanahan and Sandefur found that children who live in step families are twice as likely to suffer from psychological and behavioural problems than are their counterparts securely ensconced with ‘nuclear’ families. They are also likely to leave home earlier, have poorer health, achieve less academically.

Particularly worryingly, murder is far more likely to take place within step families compared to ‘nuclear’ families (according to research by Daly) and children living with step families are more at risk of suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Also,the parents/step parents in step families are even more likely to divorce than couples in families married for the first time, due to the fact that the step family tends to be more dysfunctional than ‘nuclear’ families and its members more prone to stress. Children in step families may experience particularly significant stress.


What Makes A Child Within A Step Family More Likely To Be Affected By Stress Than A Child Living In A ‘Nuclear’ Family:

There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:

1) The child will have been caused stress by the splitting up of his/her original family

2) Relationships with the step parent are likely to be complex, confusing, unstable and ambivalent (Bower et al). The child may resent the presence of the step parent, and, sadly, in some cases, this resentment may be reciorocated

3) The child’s relationship with the parent without custody is made weaker

4) Relationships between step siblings are likely to be difficult and fraught

5) Research also suggests that the presence of a step parent can adversely affect how the relationship between the child and the biological parent with whom s/he lives.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that step mothers tend to find their role more stressful than do step fathers. Also, step daughters tend to experience more problems stemming from having been brought up in a step family than do step sons.



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Other Resources:

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


Were You Ignored As A Child?

After my mother threw me out of her house when I was thirteen, I had no choice but to move in with my father and his new wife (and therefore now my stepmother). My father behaved in such a distant manner towards me that he may as well have been inhabiting a different galaxy, several billion light years away. And a particularly cold, unwelcoming and inhospitable one.

As for my stepmother, she constantly smothered her own son (from a previous relationship),who also lived in the house, with love, adoration and attention and general worship,whilst almost completely ignoring me as if in an attempt to eradicate the fact of my  distasteful and deeply resented existence from her mind.

At dinner in the evenings I neither spoke nor was spoken to. In the mornings, after my father had left for work, my stepmother and her son breakfasted together whilst I ate mine alone.

I felt like I was some kind of virus – my father and stepmother seemed to wish to avoid any contact with me, lest they become contaminated.

So what are the possible effects on children who are ignored by their parents? I outline the main ones below:

The Possible Effects On Children Of Being Ignored By Their Parents:

– ignoring a child is a form of emotional abuse that can have severe, adverse consequences for the child. These consequences may not just cause him/her problems during his/her childhood, but for the rest of his/her life if effective therapy is not undertaken.

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– being ignored seriously damages the child’s sense of self-worth and value as an individual; s/he is likely to start to see him/herself as utterly undeserving of love, attention and affection. In short, s/he is likely to start to view him/herself as intrinsically unlovable

– it is also likely to create problems forming friendships and romantic partnerships due to the very low sense of self-worth outlined immediately above. As a child I thought I was the least interesting and least likeable person alive on the entire planet.

– being ignored profoundly hurts and this hurt, in young people, very often may express itself through anger, rages, tantrums, aggression and physical violence (my stepmother was fond of reminding me I once knocked a coffee cup out of her hand when I was fourteen. I have no memory of this, but it may well be true) – all of which are ‘acting out’ behaviours (the child does not have the verbal dexterity to articulate his complex and painful inner feelings and emotions. Some children may develop Oppositional Defiance Disorder).

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Above :  The pain children feel from being ignored will often be expressed as anger, hostility and rage.

– increased likelihood of making excessive use of drugs and alcohol in attempt to reduce intolerable mental anguish


Because being ignored as a child will very often lead to us having a distorted and unrealistically negative view of ourselves as adults, cognitive behavioural therapy can be an effective way of correcting our faulty self-perception.


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

The Day My Mother Threw Me Out At Thirteen Years Of Age.

My parents divorced when I was eight. My father therefore moved out, leaving me to live with my highly unstable and histrionic mother and older (by three years) brother.

Not long after this, my mother began to use me as a kind of ‘counsellor’. Indeed, she would sometimes refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’ I was an extremely sensitive and compassionate child at that time and caring for my mother became central to my existence. I would worry terribly about her whilst at school, and, when, once a year, my father took me on holiday, the first thing I would do on arrival would be to phone her to check she was OK.

Often, I would counsel my mother after school in the evenings. This left my older brother free to get on with a relatively more care-free existence. He would be upstairs listening to music, or out with friends.

Unfortunately, my mother was also prone to outbursts of intense rage. As I grew older, and reached about the age of eleven or twelve, I would start to try to verbally defend myself against my mother’s tirades – answering her back. This would incense her to a degree that she would express intense, palpable hatred towards me.

My brother’s tactic was to divert any aggression she might show him by forming an alliance with her and redirecting his resentment of her onto me.

Because I was highly sensitive, my brother referred to me as ‘poof’. Also, at this time, I was self-harming, compulsively picking at my skin so that the wounds could not properly heal. Although I tried to confine this to parts of my body not on public view, such as my shoulders and upper legs, I did not always accomplish this. This led my brother to also refer to me as ‘Scabby’ or ‘The Scab’. Sometimes my mother would also use these names, or simply laugh sadistically when my brother did.

As relationships between my mother and I deteriorated further, she began to deeply resent me. When I came home from school each afternoon, she would open the front door to me only an inch or two, and make a hasty retreat to the kitchen so that she could avoid greeting, or even looking at, me. If my brother were in, she might shout out loudly to him, ‘Oh Christ, Scabby’s back!’ or something equally cutting. My brother, fancying himself an actor, would groan theatrically.

After one argument at home with my mother, my father arrived shortly afterwards in his car to pick me up and drive me to his house to spend the weekend with him and his new wife. When we were just about to leave, I started to argue again with my mother which provoked her to exclaim to my father: ‘Take this fucking little bastard with you now and never bring him back!’

A couple of days later I returned to my mother’s house to pack. As I made my way to the front door, to leave for the last time, my brother got up, opened the front door for me, and, grotesquely, in the voice of a British comedy character (Basil Fawlty – don’t ask me why), and gesticulating wildly (also in the manner of Basil Fawlty) enthused : ‘Right. Out you go please!! Come along, please!! Out you go!!!’

The front door shut behind me, mercifully preventing me from hearing any more of my mother’s and brother’s mocking, delighted laughter.

DH. 14.10.2015.



Those In Grip Of BPD Do NOT Deserve Blame For Their Actions


We have seen in many other articles that I have posted on this site that there is a strong association between the experience of childhood trauma and the development of BPD (borderline personality disorder) in later life (to read one of these articles, click here).

Sadly, compounding their problem, those suffering from BPD can be stigmatised by their friends, associates, work colleagues, and even by their own parents and siblings. As well as, of course, by society in general.

One reason for this is that when someone with BPD upsets others s/he may be accused as having behaved badly deliberately, intentionally, wilfully and premeditatively. This state of affairs is, of course, inevitably going to exacerbate yet further the BPD sufferer’s already intense feelings of rejection, isolation, alienation and disenfranchisement.

However, research clearly shows that a mistake is being made in assuming that those in the grip of this serious illness have any real control over their less than helpful behaviours. Indeed, neurological studies have now revealed DIFFERENCES IN THE BRAIN of BPD sufferers compared to non-BPD sufferers that affect, in particular, three dimensions of their behaviour.

These three behavioural dimensions are as follows :

1) Emotional control

2) Impulsivity

3) Cognitive abilities (specifically, learning, memory and reasoning)

NB. BPD sufferers are not an homogenous group and individual BPD sufferers will vary in relation to the extent to which the three behavioural dimensions are adversely affected.


What has gone wrong in the brain to cause these 3 behavioural dimensions to be adversely affected?

1) Problems with emotional control (sometimes referred to as EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION) appears to be connected to disruption of the part of the brain called the AMYGDALA.

2) Problems controlling impulses appear to be connected to disruption of the parts of the brain called the ORBITOMEDIAL and ANTERIOR CINGULATE SYSTEM.

3) Problems relating to learning, memory and reasoning appear to be connected to disruption of the part of the brain DORSOLATERAL PREFRONTAL SYSTEM.

All of the above neural systems can be damaged during their development by the experience of significant childhood trauma. To read my article on this, click here.

People who suffer from BPD are also far more susceptible to the negative effects of stress than the average person (which is also due to neurological dysfunction). This is particularly unfortunate as, when a BPD sufferer is under stress, the behavioural dimensions described above are liable to be especially badly affected. It is imperative, therefore, that BPD sufferers who wish to maximise their chances of recovery live in as near to a stress-free environment as is feasible. Indeed, in a supportive, positive, substantially stress – free environment the brain can gradually begin to recover and repair itself. This is due to a quality in the brain known by psychologists as neuroplasticity.

From the above, we may infer the following conclusion:

– dysfunctional behaviours of BPD sufferers are not intentional or deliberate. They are also not premeditated, overturning the cynical theory that BPD sufferers are ‘manipulative’. Essentially, BPD sufferers do not have the social skills, cold, calculating control capabilities (quite the opposite, in fact) and rational planning abilities to be manipulative. They act, impulsively, according to their feelings and cannot help these extremely powerful and overwhelming emotions or their impulsivity to show them. From this perspective, they act authentically.

Neither is their behaviour self-indulgent, as it is not under their control. Indeed, their behaviour tends to ultimately hurt themselves more than anyone else, filling them with shame and self-hatred. People do not willingly choose to be so utterly self-destructive and anyone who thinks they do is a fool.


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

Why And How Childhood Trauma Can Turn Us Into Addicts


We frail humans can, all too easily, become addicted, psychologically and/or physically, to a large array of substances and behaviors. I provide a list of examples below:

– alcohol

– drugs (including drugs obtained on prescription, such as sleeping pills), illegal drugs and, in the UK and no doubt many other countries, so-called ‘legal highs’.

– tobacco

– work (people who are workaholics may also suffer from the condition known as PERFECTIONISM)

– food (people who over- indulge in food to help them to cope with psychological pain are often informally referred to as COMFORT EATERS)

– exercise (especially body building and/or jogging)

– watching TV

– surfing the internet

– computer games

– relationships (constantly getting bored with existing relationships and therefore perpetually and quickly moving from one partner to another always in search of fresh excitement and thrills that often accompany the start of a brand new relationship).

– sex (click here to read my article about erotomania)

gambling (with online gambling becoming an increasing problem)

– risk-taking (e.g. driving too fast, dangerous sports etc to gain a so-called adrenalin buzz’)

– power

– excessive spending (again, this can produce a temporary ‘high’ until the novelty of the item purchased wears off (usually quickly necessitating further purchases…)


Root Cause Of Such Dependencies:

We can become psychologically and/or physically dependent on behaviours and substances such as those mentioned above in an attempt to fill a void caused by a more profound dependency deriving from our dysfunctional childhood.

These dependencies/addictions are essentially defence mechanisms – a way of trying to reduce the level of our psychological suffering. Psychologists refer to this defence mechanism as DISSOCIATION

Multiple Addictions:

The more traumatic our childhood was, the more psychological defences we are likely to develop; this translates to the fact that many people suffer from multiple addictions. Also, those who had the most traumatic childhoods are likely to be those with the deepest, most intractable, addictions.

Symptoms Of The Dependent Individual:

As well as having one, or several, addictions, the person with a dependent personality may also :

– feel an abiding sense of abandonment / rejection

constantly feel anxious

be easily angered and his/her angry outbursts may be very intense/lacking control

– feel a sense of emptiness

feel life lacks meaning

– have a very weak sense of own identity

– feel that s/he has been used, exploited and taken advantage of (often by parents in childhood)

– feel s/he has been manipulated and controlled (often by patents in childhood)

– feel a general sense of confusion

– feel a deep sense of loneliness and ‘disconnection’ from others/society

– often feel fearful / a sense of impending doom

Also, in childhood, as a result of out trauma, we may have been prone to angry/aggressive outbursts, withdrawn and ‘moody’, negative, pessimistic and ‘difficult’ (actually, that sounds uncannily like me as an adolescent. And as an adult? Let’s not go there).

Short-Term Gains:

Addictions deliver short-term benefits (if they didn’t, people would not become addicted in the first place).

For example, addictions may provide :

– temporary relief from stress and anxiety

– temporary feelings of well-being

– temporary feelings of control and/or power

However, these benefits must be off-set against, for example, such considerations as the following:

– they mask the real issues and prevent the individual from dealing with his/her life problems (such as seeking therapy for a traumatic childhood)

-they lead to avoidance of confronting and working through/processing true feelings

The Addiction Cycle:

Addiction leads to a vicious cycle from which it becomes increasingly difficult to break free. First, there is an emotional trigger such as an argument with a partner.

This leads to stress and anxiety which in turn leads to a craving for the addictive substance / to perform the addictive behaviour in an attempt to reduce this anxiety.

There then follows the addictive ritual (e.g. drinking a bottle of whisky, going to a casino with all one’s hard earned cash).

After the substance is consumed / the behavior carried out feelings of guilt follow…and so the cycle continues (until effective therapy is sought and administered).

The diagram below illustrates this inexorable cycle of self-destruction:



The Fundamental Elements Of Addiction:

The main elements of addiction are:

1) An increasing obsession/ preoccupation with the substance/behaviour of addiction

2) Increased tolerance : the person needs more and more of whatever s/he’s addicted to due to ‘diminishing returns’ (e.g. takes increasingly more alcohol to produce desired effect – in this case, possibly, oblivion).

3) Diminishing control : e.g. a gambler may start losing larger and larger sums of money, overtaken by powerful and self-destructive impulses

4) Secretiveness : e.g. an alcoholic may hide bottles of whisky about the house and at work and deny to others that s/he drinks excessively

5) Denial to self / self-delusion : e.g. the drug addict who tells him/herself ‘giving up would be easy’ but that s/he currently ‘chooses’ not to. Or may deny to themselves their addiction is doing them any harm when it is clear to others that this is patently not the case).

6) Mood swings e.g. extreme anxiety suddenly changing to severe aggression/anger

7) Loss of self-respect : e.g. the alcoholic who can no longer be bothered concerning him/herself with his/her appearance / personal hygiene

8) Loss of moral principles e.g. the drug addict who steals from friends to get money to pay for drugs

9) Suicidal feelings / impulses

10) Exacerbation / development of psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and paranoia.

11) Physical illness (e.g. liver disease, lung cancer)



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

Is Your Mother Narcissistic?

I have already published several articles on the effects on us of being brought up by a narcissistic parent. In this article, I intend to focus upon the main characteristics that are frequently found in narcissistic mothers. These characteristics are as follows:

1) Self-absorption : she regards her own needs as absolutely paramount which completely take precedence over the needs of her children. Indeed, she fails to properly recognise her own children as distinct and separate individuals with their own unique needs; if their needs get in the way of her own, she is likely to bitterly resent the fact. She is selfish and has a strong need to be admired by others and to be the centre of attention. For example, she may expect her own birthdays to be treated as a cause for international celebration, dancing in the street, ticker- tape parades and a twenty-one gun salute whilst resenting the birthdays of her children for deflecting attention from herself (as I have written elsewhere, my own mother utterly ignored me on the morning of my thirteenth birthday due to my having incurred her displeasure for some minor infraction the previous day).

2) Lack of empathy : this is one of the main hallmarks of the narcissist. She does not only lack empathy for her own children, but for other people in general. In this way, she invalidates the importance of her children’s own feelings, worries, concerns and problems by dismissing, ignoring or minimising them.

3) Warped relationship with her children: she may exploit and ‘parentify’ her child (click here to read my article on ‘parentification’), expecting him/her to cater for her emotional needs rather than the other way around. She may, too, scapegoat one child – often the most sensitive and vulnerable child (click here to read my article about how children may be ‘scapegoated’) whilst favouring another child (perhaps treating this other child as a ‘golden child’).

Often, too, any attempt children make to demonstrate affection for the narcissistic mother may be coldly rebuffed. As regards any loving, affectionate behaviour flowing from the mother to the children, this is likely to be extremely minimal or utterly non-existent.

The narcissistic mother may relate to a child in a strangely intense and possessive manner as a means to manipulating and controlling the child.

Also, she is only interested in her children doing well so that it will reflect well on her and enable her to ‘bathe in reflected glory.’ What the child him/herself derives from his/her success is largely immaterial to the narcissistic. Indeed. If she herself does not gain psychologically from her children’s success she is liable to resent it.


4) Makes sure her child’s appearance is always immaculate in order to give the outward display to others that she is a ‘good and caring’ mother. She may, too, be extremely dictatorial about what the child wears, how s/he has his/her hair cut etc… Again, this is because she is only concerned that the child’s appearance reflects well upon her. She is unlikely to care, or take any notice of, what the child would like to wear / how s/he would like his/her hair cut.


5) Uninterested in your hobbies/interests but expects you to be fascinated by her own. Eg Never coming to watch you play a sport you excel in or even ask you about it whilst expecting you come to watch every performance of an Amateur Dramatics production in which she is performing and subsequently to express your ‘limitless admiration’ for her ‘supreme, Oscar-deserving, acting abilities’.

6) Prone to outbursts of extreme outbursts of narcissist rage/hysteria often over very petty issues and refuses to be pacified

7) Can psychologically terrorize her children

8) Lacks maternal instinct – does not derive pleasure from her children and frequently resents them as a burden and great inconvenience

9) If challenged denies her behaviour harms her children and may lie to cover up her treatment of them. She is highly sensitive to criticism in general and extremely defensive.

10) Projects her own faults onto others, particularly her selfishness.

11) Her moods pervade and dominate the home.

12) Can be sulky and petulant in a childish way and employ passive-aggressive strategies to emotionally punish her children such as the ‘silent treatment’ (click here to read my article on the ‘silent treatment’).

13) Vengeful and spiteful – driven to ‘get even’ with those whom she perceives to have ‘crossed her’.

14) If her child is suffering a crisis, she may actually derive pleasure and excitement from the drama of it

15) She does not experience shame in connection with her behaviour.



.     Dealing With Narcissistic Behaviour (instantly downloadable hypnotherapy audio). Click here for further details.


David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma Linked To Adult IBS.

Up to fifty percent of adults who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) report having experienced significant trauma during their childhoods. Indeed, the researchers Saito-Loftus theorizes that the experience of trauma may affect the brain and the stomach in an adverse way that makes future susceptibility to IBS more likely.

We have seen in previous articles posted on this site that those who experience significant childhood trauma are more likely than those who have not to go on to experience higher than average trauma (eg severe relationship problems, dysfunctional behaviours leading to crisis etc) and levels of stress and anxiety in their adult lives.

This is highly relevant as stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate symptoms of IBS. Furthermore, a study conducted at the Mayo Clinic found that trauma suffered  in adulthood also increases the likelihood of the development of IBS or the worsening of existing symptoms.



Above: This diagram shows how stress can affect the body, including the development of IBS.

Implications for treatment:

It follows from this that therapy to help IBS sufferers to resolve issues relating to any traumas they may have experienced may, in many cases, be of benefit.

The role of hypnotherapy:

Clinical studies have demonstrated that hypnotherapy can be an effective treatment for IBS. Usually, it involves the use of progressive relaxation techniques, imagery and visualisation. Such uses of hypnotherapy have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of IBS, including stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation, as well as the fatigue which is often associated with IBS. Additionally, hypnotherapy can help to treat anxiety and stress.


Help With IBS Symptoms (instantly downloadable hypnosis audio): Click here.


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