What Can Trigger Personality Disorders in Children?

If you want to avoid personality disorders in children, it's important to establish a good bond with your little ones. Learn more.
What Can Trigger Personality Disorders in Children?

Last update: 11 September, 2021

Doctors can’t diagnose personality disorders in children until they’re 18 years old. However, when the symptoms are triggered in childhood, they can end up leading to a personality disorder in adulthood.

When analyzing these symptoms, it’s important to take your child’s developmental stage into account. It’s important to look at where your child should be developmentally and compare it to where they actually are. 

During childhood, your relationship and bond are incredibly important because they’ll affect your child’s correct development. Do you want to learn more about personality disorders in children? Keep reading.

Personality disorders in children: Attachment and bonding

When we talk about bonds and attachment, we’re referring to children’s need for an emotional connection with their parents or guardians. You should establish this strong bond during the first years of your little one’s life. 

The way we learn to relate to others will depend on our attachment style. These are known as bonding relationships. Also, it’s important to relate bonding and attachment to the stage of children’s emotional development.

a mother bonding with her daughter

Personality disorders in children: Stages of emotional development

There are four important stages in our child’s emotional development:

  1. Early childhood: From birth to 7 years old
  2. Second childhood: From 7 to 10 years old
  3. Early adolescence: From 10 to 15 years old
  4. Adolescence: From 15 to 18 years old

Your child’s actions will depend on the stage of development that they’re in. In addition, the way they act will always relate to the dependency-independence continuum.

When your child is in the early childhood stage, they’re completely dependent on their parents or the main figures in their lives. Their survival depends on them. At this stage, parents play a very important role because they’re the child’s source of emotional regulation. 

At this stage, our little ones will look to their parents for security as they explore the world. That means that parents are there to protect and supervise them from a distance. However, if you do too much, you may be overprotecting your child.

When children are afraid, they need a place to take shelter where they feel protected and calm. If parents aren’t able to provide their children with that security, problems start. Therefore, it’s important to know where your child should be during each developmental stage so you can look out for any problems that may affect their future.

Personality disorders in children: Broken bonds between parents and children

At what point are parents no longer able to emotionally regulate their children? What are the consequences of that? There are three situations:

1. When you overprotect your children and limit their ability to explore the world. In doing so, you’re preventing them from being independent. Instead, you’re telling your child that the world is dangerous, which we call insecure-anxious attachment. 

2. After the exploration phase, your little one will look to you for shelter. However, if you don’t know how to help your child regulate their emotions and protect them, this emotional breakdown will lead to your child developing an insecure-avoidant attachment.

3. Some children don’t have a secure place of refuge. Unfortunately, these children are victims of mistreatment, abuse, or other types of violence. Our little ones look to us for an emotional bond. However, in some families, parents are a threat to their children. This causes two types of personality disorders in children: Attachment and defense at the same time. As a result, the child develops disorganized attachment. 

What happens when these bonds break?

When these emotional bonds break, children and adolescents will experience a high state of anguish and anxiety. This is because the child doesn’t have any control over their relationship with their parents. As a result, they feel the need to use different strategies that will help them get back to an emotional balance. However, these strategies end up being harmful.

Normally, they’ll try to avoid whatever is hurting them. Of course, that’s an issue when they’re afraid of their parents. In those situations, the attachment and defense systems will activate at the same time. Then, children often develop certain personality patterns in an attempt to regain that emotional balance. Let’s take a look at them.

Narcissistic personality

This personality disorder in children arises when children don’t develop empathy. As a result, their needs take precedence over those of everyone around them. It can start in two ways:

  • In a primary way: Parents have given their child too much praise. This could happen because one or both of the parents also have narcissistic traits. Therefore, they need to feel extraordinary through their children.
  • Secondary: This happens when children try to compensate for a feeling of inferiority
Mother talking to her angry child

Care-giver personality

This personality disorder occurs when children learn that their needs aren’t important to their parents. Then, they carry those feelings into their relationships with other people. 

Little ones will try to change their behavior to meet others’ expectations. They do so by neglecting themselves. In addition, they’ll try to please and satisfy everyone else’s needs. 

The child will develop a lot of internal anger, but they don’t express it because they’re worried about people rejecting them. This can lead to an anxiety or personality disorder in children. 

Perfectionist personality

Children come to believe that they have to do everything well and that they need to be perfect. They think that if they are, then everyone will love them and everything will be fine. As a result, they try harder and harder to be better, but they’re never satisfied. So, they keep trying, but it’s never enough.

This behavior can turn into a constant search for perfection. That ends up becoming part of their personality and can lead to a disorder. 

Indolent personality disorders in children

Some little ones have a fear of failure. Therefore, they’ll avoid any situation where there’s a risk of failing. In addition, they’ll end up blaming others if something doesn’t work out and they usually won’t put any effort into changing the situation. In some cases, this is just part of their development. However, it if continues, it may be a sign of a personality disorder.


In short, when it comes to personality disorders in children, it’s important for parents to focus on their bonds with their children. That is crucial in avoiding problems with their emotional development. 

In addition, it’s important to note that we can’t diagnose personality disorders in children until they’re 18. This is true even if they demonstrate certain behaviors that may signal a disorder. Remember, their personality will develop in the early stages of their development.

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.

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