5 Consequences of a Toxic Upbringing

5 Consequences of a Toxic Upbringing
Raquel Aldana

Written and verified by the psychologist Raquel Aldana.

Last update: 14 December, 2021

Childhood is the stage of life when we start to get to know the world, develop, and learn to manage the things and people that we live with. On the other hand, it is a period in which we are especially vulnerable and dependent. As such, what happens to us in our childhood remains a part of us, making it difficult to change.

This applies equally whether we had a positive childhood or a negative one. Our childhood can be an advantage or a handicap that we get by chance and, in a certain way, we have little say in the matter.

In TV shows or movies, we often see the profile of the disturbed person who has had a childhood full of complicated relationships, be this in a direct or indirect way.

Sad Plant Child

But in reality, what are the most common consequences of having lived through a toxic childhood? 

1. Resentment

This period, like all the others that make up our life story, will not come back once we have gone through it. A toxic childhood translates into a habitually sad, unhappy, or complicated childhood.

Oftentimes, not having been able to experience those years in the way that we would have liked fills us with resentment towards those people who surrounded us during that time. In other words, our emotional connections from childhood survive, frequently appearing as a conflict of love and hard feelings .

These contradictory feelings are not the product of chance, but rather of the subsequent assessment of the injustices, distrust, fear, abandon, and humiliation that we once had to suffer.

2. Difficulty forming relationships with others
Girl Watching Octopus Come Out Door

The way in which we form relationships starts to develop during our first years of life. We learn how we have to express ourselves or how to manage silences in order to have effective communication.

During childhood, relationship patterns like violence or coercion are very easily learned and reproduced. These become difficult to “unlearn” if, as children, we observed others using them effectively to obtain goals in relationships.

Although we have little control over our relationship training, if we become accustomed to toxic patterns as children, we reap the negative results as adults. At some point, it is likely we’ll pay a high price for our ineptitude.

3. Skewed self-concept

A toxic childhood does not only refer to the lack of affection or constantly suffering the unjustified punishment of indifference. It also has to do with coexisting with people who never recognize their mistakes or who are overprotective of the child, preventing them from facing the mistakes that they make and projecting on them the image of invulnerability and perfection that is far from the one they will encounter later in life.

In this sense, the person grows up believing that they are something they are not, which creates ignorance that they will pay for dearly over time.

4. Fewer chances to develop emotional intelligence 
Girl on Moon

Mathematics, language arts, foreign languages… all of these subjects (for better or worse) are part of all academic curricula. However, something just as useful — the management of our emotions — is (or was) outside systematic education.

The fact that nobody has bothered to teach us how to manage our emotions does not mean that we have not learned it; what happens is that we end up learning it for ourselves by observing others.

In a toxic childhood the people who are close to us or who serve as points of reference tend to have an underdeveloped emotional intelligence. This can be highly toxic in our childhood, then it makes us vulnerable in the most fundamental ways.

5. Potential to repeat the pattern as parents

The upbringing that we experienced as children will, in most cases, serve as the basis for educating our own children when we are adults. If it really is true that we often unconsciously repeat certain patterns or behaviors, we’ll have to make a significant effort to redirect our lives in a healthy way.

As such, even though the people who have had a difficult childhood find it more complicated to develop, they can end up making a comeback and overcoming what never had to be denied them.

In this way, with time, they will stand out more because of what they have accomplished than because of what hurt them, becoming people worthy of our admiration.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.