Parents Who Depend on their Children

There are parents who depend on their children emotionally, which affects the parent-child relationship. Keep reading to learn more.
Parents Who Depend on their Children
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 01 June, 2023

Emotional dependence isn’t only present in couple relationships, but can also occur in any interpersonal relationship. In fact, it’s not uncommon for it to exist between family members, for example, there are parents who depend on their children. In this case, we’re talking about a complex issue that can have profound psychological consequences for both people involved.

Parents who are emotionally dependent on their children tend to create an environment of overprotection and control that hinders the growth and autonomy of the child. In parallel, it harms their own personal development to the point of presenting a disturbing sense of depersonalization.

Emotional dependency from parents toward their children

Generally, emotional dependency from parents and children occurs when adults project their unfulfilled desires onto minors. Therefore, they place excessive demands on them that have little to do with the children’s genuine interests.

In these cases, adults try to design their children’s lives as they wish based on their own emotional needs. In this way, they take control of their decisions and take the wheel of a car that doesn’t belong to them, when in truth is that the seat that belongs to them is the passenger seat.

Commonly, this is reflected through overprotective attitudes, the controlling of actions, or manipulative strategies to ensure the children’s company. In fact, it’s not surprising that they feel deep distress when the children aren’t at home, as they have no other source of happiness.

“Emotional dependence is something that turns love into an ordeal”.

– Jorge Castelló –

A mother who shows emotional dependency on her son.
Although without conscious malice, parents who depend on their children end up affecting the interpersonal relationships that minors may have outside the family environment.

When parents depend on their children, there are consequences

When bonds are built with a high degree of dependence, the negative effects don’t take long to appear. The consequences may be visible or more subtle, but they’re always relevant to the mental health and well-being of both parties.

The consequences for children

These are some of the problems that can occur in children when their parents are emotionally dependent on them:

  • Emotional overload: Children may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of meeting their parents’ emotional needs. This can cause stress, frustration, and significant physical and mental fatigue.
  • Difficulty acquiring autonomy: Children may find it difficult to set limits for their parents. Also, they may feel obligated to respond to their parents’ expectations, rather than making their own decisions regarding their own lives.
  • Difficulty making friends: When they feel absorbed by their relationship with their parents, they may find it difficult to build and maintain healthy and close bonds with other children.
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment: Feeling restricted in their freedom, children will have moods flooded with unpleasant emotions. In addition, they may feel resentful for having to assume a role that doesn’t belong to them.

The consequences for parents

Parents who are dependent on their children will have to face a number of disadvantages:

  • Loss of self-identity: This is one of the most serious consequences that any emotionally dependent person suffers. Parents who are dependent on their children often lose their sense of self because they live through the children.
  • Feeling anxious and fearful on a daily basis: They may feel frightened when considering the idea that their children may one day become estranged. This alternative is highly threatening to them, resulting in a feeling of constant anxiety.
  • The development of dysfunctional behavioral patterns: Dependency may lead them to adopt unhealthy attitudes, such as manipulation, surveillance, and control, in order to keep their children close.
  • Guilt: If parents have a record of their dependency, they may feel guilty for not accepting their children’s freedom and independence. However, the feeling of guilt isn’t always enough to reduce this attitude.
A female talking to a psychologist.
In psychotherapy, the emotional needs of the adult will be explored in order to satisfy them independently. At the same time, they’ll be able to acquire tools to create a more balanced and healthy bond.

Strategies to work on emotional dependency

Fortunately, it’s possible to reverse this situation through deep inner work on the part of the parents. Time, patience, and effort are three essential components to stop being emotionally dependent on children. The first step to take is to seek professional support to work deeply on this issue.

On the other hand, it’s essential to develop one’s own interests and hobbies, which will help to recover one’s own identity and boost self-esteem and sense of self-confidence. At the same time, it will be beneficial to build or reconquer bonds with other family members, friends, or partners. In this way, well-being will be distributed in various interpersonal relationships, which will help reduce dependence on the children.


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.

  • Castelló, J. (2015). La superación de la dependencia emocional: Cómo impedir que el amor se convierta en un suplicio. Borealis. 
  • Rodríguez de Medina Quevedo, I. (2013). La dependencia emocional en las relaciones interpersonales.
  • Riso, W. (2013). Guía práctica para vencer la dependencia emocional: 13 pasos para amar con independencia y libertad (Vol. 1). PHRONESIS SAS.

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