What Is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

What Is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

by Kara Ferreira

Childhood emotional neglect is the failure of parents or caregivers to meet a child’s emotional needs, particularly during the early years of development.

It varies in severity and may occur intentionally or unintentionally. Examples of childhood emotional neglect (from PsychCentral) may include:

  • Lack of emotional support during difficult times
  • Withholding or not showing affection
  • Exposure to domestic violence or other kinds of abuse
  • Disregard for a child’s mental well-being
  • Social isolation
  • Being emotionally unavailable or absent 

In less extreme cases, a parent or caregiver might treat a child’s emotions as unimportant or excessive, or invalidate their feelings. This can unintentionally send the message that the child’s feelings don’t matter.

Parents who may cause childhood emotional neglect in their children have often experienced it themselves.

According to Psychology Today, some signs that you may have experienced childhood emotional neglect yourself are:

  • You’re afraid of relying on others
  • You have a hard time identifying your strengths and weaknesses
  • You are hard on yourself
  • You blame yourself or feel guilt or shame about your needs and feelings
  • You feel numb or cut off from your emotions
  • You are easily overwhelmed
  • You are extra sensitive to rejection

Healing from childhood emotional neglect can be done at any age. Learning to connect with your emotions and cultivate self-compassion are important tools. 

Working with a mental health professional can also be a great way to identify behaviors and thought patterns that no longer serve you so that you can build self-esteem and improve your relationships. Finding a therapist is especially beneficial if you feel that emotional neglect negatively impacts your life and relationships.

If you find that you need additional support, we’re here to help! If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or info@galvingrowthgroup.com for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a team of psychologists with a wide range of expertise. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.

Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer


PsychCentral, “Emotional Neglect in Childhood: Signs, Effects, and How to Cope

Psychology Today, “9 Signs of Childhood Emotional Neglect, and 3 Ways to Heal