Personality Complexes in Childhood: What You Should Know

May 27, 2019
Personality complexes are very common in childhood. Our personalities are developed in our first years of life so the opinion of others can affect our emotional development from a very young age. 

In order to develop emotionally, children need to feel respected and loved. Not only by their parents but also by their other relatives, school teachers, and friends. If they don’t feel that affection, they risk developing personality complexes in childhood.

In the field of psychology, a “personality complex” refers to a system of emotion-charged ideas that can profoundly shape our beliefs and behaviors. These impulses have a powerful effect on our perceptions, generally in an unconscious way. In the majority of cases, such impulses develop because of life experiences during childhood.

As individuals, we establish how we think, act, and interact in life from very early in childhood. A child first starts to interact with other children in school and at preschool, for instance, and he gets to know children with different personalities.

Children receive not just praise and supportive comments from interacting with other children and adults; they also receive criticisms and hear comments that mock their beliefs and behaviors. This causes emotional damage that can lead to the development of personality complexes. Individuals will have to struggle with these impulses their whole lives.

The most common personality complexes in childhood

It’s important to notice if your child is developing a personality complex because they tend to present themselves at a young age. If children don’t overcome them in time, it may affect their personality in the long term.

Superiority complex

You can tell when a child feels he’s better than everyone else, even better than his own parents and other adults. He acts like a despot, and he believes he has power and authority over those around him. Moreover, he’s egotistical, he wants everything for himself, without consideration for others.

A child with this complex gives off a sense of security, but it’s a ruse and totally false. A superiority complex is actually rooted in profound insecurities. Someone with a superiority complex is only hiding his or her insecurities with a brash and self-secure facade.

Inferiority complex

This is related to the previous complex, but people with an inferiority complex externalize it differently. A person with an inferiority complex believes that everyone else is better than him and that he’s loved little, if at all. The child believes he or she’s not valuable or worthy of respect.

Personality Complexes in Childhood: What You Should Know

This complex tends to develop when parents, teachers, and other older figures make comparisons between children and show favorites. Despite good intentions, this comparison makes the lesser child feel denigrated and less worthy than the other child he’s being compared to. So, little by little he or she forms a negative feeling about themselves.

Personality complexes in childhood: Physical complexes

This personality complex is when a child feels negatively about one or more of his own physical characteristics, such as having some sort of abnormality or disability. As he discovers he’s different, the child starts to feel bad for standing out.

For example, a child might develop a physical complex about the size of his ears or a problem with his eyesight. Furthermore, he might feel ashamed if his teeth are crooked, for example, among other traits.

The problem is exacerbated when other children make fun of their appearance. Although common, being teased about his or her appearance or physical characteristics perturbs the child even more. Parents and teachers should be attentive to this kind of teasing to try to teach children how to cope.

Feeling undervalued

This complex is common in children who have many siblings, especially in younger children who have lots of siblings. By feeling undervalued, the child has a strong desire to show he’s someone.

It has been shown that younger siblings accomplish more in life than older siblings. One explanation is that by not receiving attention in their childhood and youth, their primary objective is to seek the approval of their parents and older siblings. They make a huge effort to assure this approval.

“By interacting with others, the child starts to face new challenges, like assuming new responsibilities in school and getting to know children with different personalities.”

Narcissistic complex

This tends to present itself in children who are the only child. The parents of narcissistic children tend to overprotect them so that they always put themselves before anything else. In this way, the narcissistic child believes he should get anything he asks for and that everyone should adore him. Likewise, he believes the world revolves around him.

When this complex manifests, narcissistic children can’t move past the egocentric behavior that is common in babies and toddlers.  As a consequence, as they grow up, narcissistic qualities get tied to their personalities.

How to deal with personality complexes in childhood

Childhood is the happiest stage of life, full of joy and free from worries. Nonetheless, childhood complexes can threaten later happiness and emotional resilience in life.

Therefore, you should start giving your children advice about their emotional responses when they’re very young. It’s necessary to teach them to have personal boundaries and to understand that not everything around them should affect them. It’s a positive thing if they learn to be sure of themselves.

In this way, childhood complexes will be kept in line. As a consequence, children will be able to accept their own weaknesses and to rise above the rejection of others.

Ways of fighting childhood complexes

To prevent childhood complexes from becoming a long-lasting problem that impacts their personality in the long run, it’s necessary to build their self-esteem. Here are some ways to reinforce this:

Create a tight bond with your children

To achieve a good level of self-esteem, you should give your children a sense of security by stimulating them and giving them motivation. In that way, your children will feel supported emotionally and that will help them face any challenge.

Console them and help build their coping abilities

If they run into problems you should be there for them. Understand their pain and console them. Maybe you can empathize because in your childhood you felt the same way. You’re the one who is most qualified to give your children good advice.

Personality Complexes in Childhood: What You Should Know

Overcoming personality complexes in childhood: Teach them by setting a good example

You should avoid being critical, demanding, or irritated with your children. Phrases like “You’re good for nothing,” “You’re a total disaster,” or “You never do anything right,” will only generate complexes in your children.

On the contrary, it’s your job as a parent to motivate them with awards, but not the material kind. You should give them emotional rewards. For example, if they behave well, spend some time with them by playing their favorite game.

Finally, you should also attune yourself to your children’s behavior. You have to be attentive to what they say and how they refer to themselves because this will give you clues to how they’re feeling and when to discuss it. In this way, you can help them overcome their childhood complexes.

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  • Jolonch, A. (2005). Educación e infancia en riesgo. Acción y reflexión en el ámbito social. Revista d’educació Social.