Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to the child’s emotional needs. Childhood Emotional Neglect is, in some ways, the opposite of mistreatment and abuse. Whereas mistreatment and abuse are parental acts, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act.

It’s a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. Because it’s an act of omission, it’s not visible, noticeable or memorable. Emotional Neglect is the white space in the family picture; the background rather than the foreground. It is insidious and overlooked while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.

Children who are emotionally neglected then grow up to have a particular set of struggles. Because their emotions were not validated as children, they may have difficulty knowing and trusting their own emotions as adults.

They may have difficulty understanding their own feelings, as well as others’. Because an important part of themselves (their emotional self) has been denied, they may find themselves feeling disconnected, unfulfilled or empty. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; like something is wrong with them, but they’re not sure what it is

The 10 Characteristics of Those Who Grew Up With Childhood Emotional Neglect

  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Counter-dependence
  • Lack of self-knowledge
  • Poor compassion for self (probably plenty for others)
  • A tendency toward guilt and shame
  • Self-directed anger and self-blame
  • A deep sense of being flawed, or different from everyone else
  • Struggles with self-care
  • Struggles with self-discipline
  • Difficulties identifying, naming, and understanding how emotions work in oneself and others

Article courtesy of

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website EmotionalNeglect.com.

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