Everyone around us, including you, and I carries some amount of emotional baggage. This may vary from person to person, and this could cause damage or stress in different parts of life. The origin of emotional issues can almost always be traced to childhood.
Parents must be responsive to their children, look after their needs, are sensitive to needs and available for their child emotionally and physically. The child-parent relationship in the formative/early childhood years is significant as it helps the child/baby form positive relations and values.
Emotional neglect can have varied adverse psychological effects on the child throughout childhood or later in adulthood. Neglects can also impact the physiological, social, cognitive and behavioural aspects of a child’s life.
A famous experiment by Dr Edward Tronick, director-child development unit at Harvard University set a milestone in understanding neglect and its impact. The ‘Still face experiment’ showed a baby and the parent interacting. The parent was very responsive, talking to the child and looked and responded to what the baby pointed at. Here the baby was delighted and smiling. The parent then suddenly becomes still, showing no expression, not responsive or attending to the child’s interaction. The baby becomes distressed, screams to get attention, and soon starts crying.
This experiment showed how even two minutes of unresponsiveness had a negative effect on the child. Imagine emotional neglect faced by children for months or even years. This has a severe impact on life from early on until much later in life when it is not resolved, or the role models in life are negligent.
There are various reasons why parents may be emotionally negligent. This may be because of different forms of parenting styles.
1. Authoritative parents impose too many rules and restrict the child to express and experience things freely
2.Permissive parent who leaves the child to control their lives without setting any rules or boundaries.
3. Absent parents who are very occupied with their work and life, often unavailable to the child’s need.
On the other hand, there are other reasons: narcissistic parents, parents who have mental health issues and addicted to drugs or alcohol. These parents cannot attend to the child and negligent due to their problems with addiction or treatments.
The most common effects of childhood neglect that can be recognized in adulthood include:
- post-traumatic stress disorder( PTSD)
- emotional unavailability
- feeling empty
- poor self-discipline
- low self-esteem
- aggressive behaviour
- difficulty trusting others or relying on others
- high levels of guilt, shame, and anger
- feeling unfulfilled even when you achieve success
- problem asking for help from others
To overcome childhood emotional neglects, the following strategies can be helpful:
- Develop and practice compassion for self
- Pay attention to your feelings
- Increase emotional regulation and awareness of the emotions that you experience at a particular time or situation
- Learn assertiveness
- Develop better communication habits
- Seek family therapy
Childhood emotional neglect can impair a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being, making them think that their feelings are not valid. The consequences of this neglect can be profound and last a lifetime.Treatment for childhood emotional neglect can help children overcome the feelings of emptiness, and they can learn to handle their emotions well. Likewise, parents can understand the importance and the needs of their child to pay greater attention in the future.