Seven Signs You Were Raised By Manipulative Parents

Anxiety problems, low self-esteem, and accumulated anger are the results of growing up with manipulative parents. It's essential to identify the consequences that these situations leave behind.
Seven Signs You Were Raised By Manipulative Parents
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 June, 2023

We often overlook the impact of being raised by manipulative parents. We tend to assume that, upon reaching adulthood, all those dynamics experienced within the family disappear, dissolve, and automatically lose relevance. But, it’s not like that. In fact, the marks of psychological control prevail and can alter many of the layers of personality and human identity.

Moreover, our autonomy is diminished when we develop under the influence of dominant parents. Indeed, often, despite the fact that we might be 30 or 40 years old, the threads of these figures prevail. Almost without realizing it, our decisions, plans for the future, and even our relationships are governed by their dysfunctional presences.

‘Helicopter parents’ show clear signs of manipulation and control over their children.

How to recognize if you were raised by manipulative parents

Parenting must be based on affection and protection, but also on the ability to give the world independent, happy, and mature people. Manipulative parents don’t educate in happiness but in coercion and repression. In fact, a study published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology claims that helicopter parents demonstrate this pattern of behavior.

Helicopter parenting refers to behavior that isn’t new. It describes overprotective parents who thrive on absolute control of the lives of their children. There’s no conclusive data as to whether this educational style is correlated with childhood anxiety and depression. However, the scientific community suspects that its effects on mental health are significant in the long term.

A study conducted by Liverpool John Moores University (UK) states that manipulation is also common among narcissistic parents. The consequences of these dynamics have a lasting impact on adulthood. They can even affect the relational and emotional spheres. As such, the shadow of these presences tends to damage our ability to bond in a healthy way.

But, what are the obvious signs of being raised by manipulative parents? We detail them below.

1. You have trouble making decisions

If you grew up in a family environment where others decided for you, it’ll be difficult to find your own autonomy. As is often said, becoming an adult means learning to make your own decisions. However, being manipulated and controlled for several years fills your mind with insecurities.

As a result, you fear taking the reins of your life and are afraid of change. You fear taking that first step, bringing stages to a close, and starting new projects. Fear has been injected into you by others, which makes you insecure.

Growing up in a manipulative family makes it more difficult to find love and build happy and lasting relationships.

2. You compare yourself to others

Dysfunctional parents frequently use comparison techniques. If this is your case, in your childhood and adolescence your parents will have compared you with other children, telling you that you weren’t clever or resourceful enough. Unsurprisingly, this kind of situation has consequences.

In fact, even today, you find yourself automatically comparing yourself with others, repeating the dynamics of your family. This diminishes and destroys your self-esteem.

3. You feel unloved

One of the signs that you were raised by narcissistic parents lies in the quality of your sexual-affective relationships. You probably find it difficult to establish lasting and happy ties. Love is always torturous and painful. The fact of having parents who made you believe that affection has conditions has scarred you.

Manipulative parents often use phrases like “If you don’t do what I’m asking I’ll stop loving you” or “If only you were different, I’d love you so much more”. These verbalizations have built in you a completely wrong image of how relationships should be.

A study conducted by the Royal Holloway University of London (UK) states that growing up in a dysfunctional family makes a child assume that it’s extremely difficult to find happiness in love.

4. You need external validation

One of the consequences of being raised by manipulative parents is needing external reinforcement. It doesn’t matter that you’re now an adult and no longer live in the family home. You often require validation from others to feel appreciated, confirm that you’re doing the right things, and develop a positive image of yourself.

However, this tendency often exhausts others. But, you can’t help it. It’s the fuel you need to reinforce your self-esteem and self-concept.

One of the effects of growing up in a manipulative family is that, as an adult, you inadvertently assume the same dynamics with others.

5. You control others without realizing it

The behavioral patterns of manipulative parents are usually unconsciously internalized by their offspring. Moreover, if you have narcissistic parents, there’s a risk that you’ll inherit this profile.

An article published in the journal, PLoS One states that this psychological condition is genetic and that there’s a risk of inheriting the intrapersonal grandiosity and interpersonal entitlement characteristic of narcissism.

This means that, in adulthood, you might repeat the same dynamics that your parents applied to you. Being aware of this is key.

6. You find it difficult to express what you feel

If you were raised by manipulative parents, you’ll likely be emotionally repressed. That’s because you were raised believing that your needs and feelings weren’t important. As a result, you put aside what you felt. And now, you don’t know how to express your emotions and have to deal with much internal suffering.

7. You have emotional ups and downs

If you were raised by parents who controlled, manipulated, and invalidated you, you may well bear the scars of psychological trauma. Indeed, nothing is more damaging to child development than growing up in an environment where love is conditional and where the needs and opportunity to develop autonomy and a healthy identity are violated.

This means that, upon reaching adulthood, you would’ve suffered serious problems regulating your emotions and you now find yourself trapped by feelings of stress and anxiety.

When you’ve spent decades being manipulated, it’s extremely difficult to recognize its effects. Realizing it is the first step to healing.

Can you heal these wounds?

Yes, you can heal the wounds caused by manipulative parents. However, it’s a process that takes time and involves making decisions. Firstly, you must decide what kind of bond you want to maintain with your parents as an adult. Maybe you’ll want to distance yourself.

An article published in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences states that, in certain ways, we all use manipulative techniques. But, some carry them out in a harmful way, employing extremely sophisticated tactics.

You might be interested to read How to Deal With a Toxic Family

Tips for healing the wounds left by manipulative parents

If you’ve grown up experiencing manipulative family dynamics in a detrimental way you may exhibit neurotic personality traits. It’s your responsibility to heal the imprint of these experiences and achieve well-being and fulfillment. Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Improve your assertiveness.
  • Work on your self-esteem.
  • Train yourself in emotional intelligence.
  • Practice self-compassion and self-care.
  • Lean on your own social circle. For example, friends, partner, etc.
  • Develop strategies that improve your self-confidence.
  • Learn techniques to help you solve problems and make decisions.
  • Set healthy boundaries with your parents. Decide if you want to keep seeing them and under what circumstances.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy or EMDR therapy will allow you to address any possible trauma.
  • Give space to your emotions and validate them. The anger, sadness, shame, and anguish that you feel because of what you’ve experienced are perfectly understandable.

Finally, don’t hesitate to request specialized help if you’re aware that the wound of manipulation isn’t healing by itself. In fact, it’s common for pain to be left behind by harmful and dysfunctional families. Make sure you take the first step toward achieving the well-being you need and deserve.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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