7 Signs You Grew Up With Emotionally Immature Parents — And It's Affecting You Now

Everyone's childhood is the most formative time in their lives, and parents who lack emotional maturity can do some serious harm.

Last updated on Feb 04, 2024

sad adult woman with older woman behind her Fizkes / Shuttterstock

Children are, by definition, emotionally immature. They have not yet had an opportunity to learn how to recognize their feelings, manage them, take responsibility for them, or use them the way they are meant to be used. That is natural.

But the ramifications don't end in childhood. There are many people aged 25 and older who are mired in emotional immaturity. ​And what happens if one of those emotionally immature people is your parent? It can set you up for some serious challenges — not only in your childhood but throughout your adult life, too.


Here are 7 signs you grew up with emotionally immature parents.

1. Their emotions ran wild

If you grew up with emotionally immature parents, as a child you were witness to their unchecked and unmanaged feelings. They may have had emotional outbursts, struggled to regulate their emotions, or had intense reactions, regardless of how it affected you or others.



Your parents may also have had explosive bouts of anger or sadness, or even happier emotions like laughter. But their emotions were often disproportionate to the situation. As a result, when you were a child, you may have felt like you were on a constant rollercoaster, feeling unnerved, confused, and fearful.


Their wild emotions made it difficult for you to feel stable or understand why they reacted a certain way. You may have also felt like the household was chaotic and, later in life, had an unstable emotional foundation.

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2. They were ignorant of your needs

Your parents probably didn't quite understand your feelings or even try to connect with you on a deeper level. They lacked awareness that made them disregard your needs, desires, and interests, and were only focused with their own needs.

Because they ignored you, it deeply affected you. You may have felt misunderstood, lonely, or unseen as a result of their emotional neglect.


3. They displayed low emotional intelligence

While their reactions to seemingly minute situations were explosive, all in all they had little understanding of emotions, how they work, or how to respond to them. This means they likely had low emotional intelligence.



Because they didn't understand emotions, they were unable to empathize with you and your experience. When you came home from school upset about someone being mean, they had no kind words to offer you, and may have even become angry with you for feeling a certain way.

Emotional intelligence is essential for proper communication, especially in the development of a healthy parent-child relationship. Unfortunately, their low EQ may have created an inability in yourself to regulate your own emotions, form healthy relationships, and create insecure attachment styles.


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4. They were extremely volatile

Because of their inability to understand and process emotions, they likely showed intense feelings like anger, hurt, sadness, or pain at unpredictable times. This volatile behavior may have included impulsive reactions and a tense environment.

Due to their volatility, you may have been constantly on edge and hyper-vigilant in anticipating their outbursts at any time. Much like an eggshell mom, your parents kept you in a constant state of anxiety and, down the road, led you to develop coping mechanisms to keep the peace.

5. They possessed little ability to communicate their emotions

It’s a parent’s job to teach their child about feelings, talking about emotions as a natural part of everyday life, asking their child what they’re feeling, naming their child’s feelings, and helping their child manage their own feelings, too.


Children who receive this kind of emotional attention and care learn the emotional skills that they will need throughout their lives. Unfortunately, for people who grew up with emotionally immature parents, their feelings were ignored and created a sense of isolation.

In doing so, your parents taught you to ignore your own feelings, and instead of saying they were angry and talking about it, they took it out on you, whether it was with the silent treatment or indirectly punishing behavior. They may have also lacked the emotional vocabulary to correctly identify what their feelings were.

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6. They were selfish and inconsiderate

Growing up, you may have noticed that your emotionally immature parents were willing to hurt you mentally and emotionally, all to make themselves feel better or get what they want.


Their selfish tendencies meant they prioritized their own needs over yours, were self-centered, didn't validate or emotionally support you, and may have even expected you to be the caretaker in your parent-child relationship. This, in turn, most likely led to you suppressing your feelings to meet their demands.



7. They rejected responsibility

Your emotionally immature parents seldom took responsibility or apologized after hurting your feelings. The ability to take responsibility for your actions is a huge indicator of emotional maturity, but in this case, your parents deflected blame and avoided all accountability.

Perhaps your parents were narcissists, which, in this case, meant they were prone to overlooking and misperceiving your feelings, manipulating and directly harming you in the process. They made decisions and engaged in actions that did damage — not because they were unaware, but because they just didn't care.


As a result, you were likely left feeling abandoned, unsupported, and suffering from low self-esteem and inadequacy.

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Jonice Webb, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and best-selling author of two self-help books. She specializes in childhood emotional neglect, relationships, communication issues, and mental health. Dr. Webb has appeared on CBS News and NPR, and her work has been cited by many publications.