Emotional Neglect Creates Unassertive Adults

Emotional Neglect Creates Unassertive Adults
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Have you ever wondered how emotional neglect can affect a child’s life? Well, the fact of the matter is that it can actually turn them into a very unassertive adult.

Want to know why? Read on and we’ll try to explain.

Notions about assertiveness

Assertiveness is an essential quality for our lives. It will greatly help us avoid problems when interacting with those around us. Added to that, it’s vital for us to be able to not lose patience and live life in a more balanced, relaxed way.

Assertiveness is being able to value our own rights. We don’t have to be passive or aggressive to achieve this. We do this by also respecting the rights of other people.

Although it seems like something that should be quite simple to put into practice, it isn’t always so easy.

Most people aren’t as assertive as they should be, or even not at all. To try to find out why, we’ll often need to go back to our own childhood.

People who have grown up in a home filled with emotional neglect have never been able to develop assertiveness afterwards.

At this point we should remember that when we talk about emotional neglect, we’re referring to when other people ignore our feelings.

Assertive rights against emotional negligence

Here are some basic assertive rights:

Judge yourself

You have the right to judge your own behavior and to accept responsibility for your actions. What we mean here is that you have the right not to have to give explanations for your behavior.

You also have the right to assess if you really want to accept the responsibility of solving other people’s problems. You also have the right to change your mind, to make mistakes, and to say “no”, etc.

Express emotions

It’s clearly demonstrated that people who have been brought up by parents or guardians who considered that expressing emotions was something negative, are more likely to be unaware of their own rights.

If your parents ignored your thoughts or punished you for having your own opinions, then subconsciously you’ll think that your emotions and needs don’t matter.

Emotional Neglect Creates Unassertive Adults

To see if this is the case in your life then ask yourself whether people have said to you similar phrases to these: “you can’t let others know how you feel or what you really think” or “whatever you do, don’t rock the boat.”

If the answer is yes, then it has almost certainly been your parents or legal guardians who have pronounced them.

Even if you aren’t aware of it, they are instilled in your subconscious and end up determining your behavior, even though you may already be an adult.

So, what is emotional neglect?

Emotional neglect, in the case of parents, is the inability to respond effectively to children’s emotional needs.

One of the tasks of parents should be to validate our children‘s emotions and show them how to channel them effectively. Parents should be the emotional point of reference for these little ones, as they look to us for help in all aspects of their lives.

If parents aren’t able to recognize these emotions, then the child won’t know what to do because he’s led to believe that what he’s thinking or what he’s feeling is not appropriate.

As a result of this, when he reaches adulthood, he doesn’t trust his emotions or his instincts, and has a very low self-esteem. In addition, it’s common for adults who were brought up in this way to find it difficult to express their emotions in an assertive way.

All this means that they tend to go to one extreme or the other: either allowing people to trample on them, or relating to others in a really aggressive way.

The importance of developing assertiveness

If the fundamental aspects that make up assertiveness are taken into account, then it can develop at any stage of life, especially in childhood. Among these fundamental aspects is knowing how to recognize one’s own emotions and label them.

We must learn how to know how we’re feeling and why, and in that way we’ll be able to deal with those feelings better.

Emotional Neglect Creates Unassertive Adults

You should also be aware of your own rights, and that, as a human being, you should be treated with respect.

Of course, it’s also important that you know how to value other people’s opinions.

We must realize that we can disagree with others without judging or belittling them when they think differently from us. That is, of course, exactly what we should demand of others.

All this will lead us to develop a healthy self-esteem that will help us understand that making mistakes doesn’t mean we’re worth any less. Quite the contrary – mistakes can enrich us and help us grow as people.

By putting all these things into practice we won’t feel threatened by others, and we’ll be free to live our lives in the way we were really meant to.


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.

  • Carpena, A. (2008). Emociones y salud. Aula de Innovación Educativa, 173-174 (pp. 61-64).
  • Garrido-Rojas, L. (2006). Apego, emoción y regulación emocional. Implicaciones para la salud. Revista latinoamericana de psicología, 38(3), 493-507. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/805/80538304.pdf
  • Navas, M. D. C. O. (2010). La educación emocional y sus implicaciones en la salud. Revista Española de orientación y psicopedagogía, 21(2), 462-470. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/3382/338230785025.pdf

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