The Childhood Effect on Our Adult Relationships

The Impact of our childhood on adult relationships

The Childhood Effect on Our Adult Relationships

By Ruth Rodriguez April 18, 2022 04.18.2022 Share:
Attachment Childhood Counseling Family Parenting Therapy

Do you wonder about the impact of your childhood?

What is the effect our childhood really have on our adult relationships? I am not sure if you have ever wondered this, but I think it is very important that this question be on everybody’s mind. When you are getting all the preparations ready for your wedding, you may have briefly thought about how your background and your partner’s background are going to get along. Or, you may have friends that you are not really sure why you are friends with them. There may have been past relationships you are glad you are not a part of anymore. Or maybe you have never thought about these things until today. Turns out our childhood experiences have a great deal of influence on our adult relationships. How does this look like?

Childhood relationships with trusted adults

One study found that there is a connection between a child’s relationship with a trusted adult and their ability to develop social skills as an adult and build trust with others. In other words, children who grow up with at least one trusted adult have the ability to build stronger relationships than children who don’t grow up with any trusted adults. I would like to point out that having a trusted adult is just one aspect of a childhood experience among many others. However, it is a very important aspect. The researchers of this study go on to explain that promoting strong adult-child relationships is critical to the development of resilience in children, who then grow up to be adults. The adults you had in your childhood do have a certain influence on you, whether it is positive or not. These relationships we had as children impact the way we as adults relate to others, which in turn factors into our relationship choices.

Parent-child relationships

The most important adult-child relationship according to relationship experts, attachment theory, and many mental health professionals around the world is the parent-child relationship. The parent-child relationship creates such a close bond and is precisely why it has such an impact on the child’s development and adulthood. As mentioned previously, it is about having a trusted adult. Children need to trust their parents. Trust them with what? Children need to trust that their parents will provide for their basic, emotional, and discipline needs. Yes that’s right, even discipline.

  1. Basic needs- this one is a given. Children need to know that they are going to be fed and provided with shelter. Children also need to know that their parents are willing to protect their children at any cost.
  2. Emotional needs- I have come across many clients who tell me that their parents provided everything they needed and they are not exactly sure why they are now having relationship issues as adults. After some conversations we come to find out that although they had their basic needs met, they never got their emotional needs taken care of from their parents. Meeting the emotional needs of children means that you as a parent are validating their emotions, empathizing with them, and then comforting them. Meeting the emotional needs of a child doesn’t mean you yell at your child for crying or ignore them completely. Children need to know that having emotions is a normal human experience and they have their parents to hold their hand during hard times.
  3. Discipline needs- Yes, children have a need to be disciplined. Now, let’s get the definition of discipline straight. To discipline is to teach. That’s all. Children need to know that their parents are going to do their best in teaching them everything about life, including the importance of following rules and respecting others. When children don’t do what you ask of them, there are consequences. Even more, when children do what you ask of them, there are good consequences!

When you are able to meet all these needs for your children, they will have a better sense of trust built in them, a healthier self-esteem, and a better ability to create healthy relationships as adults.

Source: Ashton, K., Davies, A. R., Hughes, K., Ford, K., Cotter-Roberts, A., & Bellis, M. A. (2021). Adult support during childhood: A retrospective study of trusted adult relationships, sources of personal adult support and their association with childhood resilience resources. BMC Psychology, 9, 1-11

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