Consequences of Emotional Deficiencies in Childhood

Love and affection are fundamental for the correct psychomotor development of children, especially in the social sphere. Unfortunately, emotional deficiencies can have great repercussions in childhood and adulthood.
Consequences of Emotional Deficiencies in Childhood

Last update: 15 February, 2022

Affection, love, and care are among the most important nutrients to give to children in their first years of life. In the first months, it’s even primordial for their survival. But what happens when these foods for a child’s soul and normal development are missing? What are the consequences of emotional deficiencies in childhood? Find out below.

Emotional deficiencies are the deprivation of love, affection, and care from parents, but especially from the mother, toward their children. It¡s manifested by different factors that can range from the physical absence of the parents due to abuse, neglect, rejection, or abandonment. The breakup of the home or even unexpected absences such as the death of the parents or the stay for long periods of time of the child or the mother in the hospital are also factors that play a part.

Love’s as important as food and education for the physical, psychological, and emotional development of children. Those who in their childhood have lacked the warmth of home and the infinite love of parents or have perceived, even when with them, that they haven’t been loved enough, may lack affection and develop unhealthy attachment patterns or be more prone to self-destructive behaviors.

Long-term deprivation of affection from parents or caregivers of a baby can trigger the affective deprivation syndrome, defined as the deprivation of a loving and affectionate relationship between the mother and her child. It’s a serious lack of emotional stimulation that interrupts the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social maturation of the child and causes behavioral and social disorders.

A little boy wearing a paper crown and crying.

The consequences of affective deprivation in childhood

Parents should be very aware of the importance of their role in modeling and supporting their children. Self-absorbed, selfish, and egocentric parents, focused only on their own affairs, are generally those who don’t fully comply with the quota of affection that their children demand.

Love is something that should neither be begged for nor demanded. But if a life has been brought into the world, a vulnerable being that demands from us only the purest of feelings, such as love, the question is, why not give it?

A child subjected to emotional deprivation disorder, in adulthood, will tend to present emotional immaturity, will be selfish, self-centered, prone to vices, lacking in empathy, and will present emotional dependence, insecurity in their relationships, depressive disorders, and phobias. There are innumerable consequences caused in a person that’s raised in a loveless home.

Permanent search for affection

Children who grow up lacking love from their parents or caregivers will go through the world with an eagerness for affection. They’ll tend to seek recognition, acceptance, and affection at all costs from other people and to place their worth in the opinion of others.

Language and learning disorders

Psychologists say that children with affective deprivation syndrome have language problems and poor academic performance. They ‘e slow to develop language and have poor social skills. They usually see the expression of affection in a negative way, so they’re not very affectionate with those around them. They censor their emotions.

One of the main reasons why the child tries to go unnoticed is the fear of rejection and disappointment. These children tend to be very distrustful of people, as they think they can harm them. In addition, they tend to be defensive, irritable, and have outbursts of anger.

Learning problems tend to appear more frequently at school age. This fact doesn’t mean that the child isn’t intelligent, but that they have problems concentrating, which affects their school performance and self-esteem.

Several studies have shown that children with affective deficiencies are more prone to contract diseases. In addition, lack of affection in childhood can manifest itself through certain physical symptoms such as constipation, especially in younger children.

A toddler covering his face and looking upset.

Generalized mistrust, fear of abandonment

Children with deep emotional deficiencies, which aren’t therapeutically addressed or overcome, grow up with a sense of emptiness and mistrust that undermines their relationships. Fear of abandonment is part of the patterns they’ve acquired and will be difficult to let go of. Emotional dependence, low esteem, and isolation will be vestiges of the lack of love during their childhood.

How to avoid affective deficiencies

To avoid affective deficiencies in childhood, it’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s world and interests.

It’s not about being helicopter parents, but parents who establish healthy relationships with their children. It’s not enough to be physically present but to be mentally and emotionally ready to give the best of themselves to their family and children.

  • Maintain good communication with your child. Be a good listener and listen to their demands. Read their expressions and value their opinions.
  • Spend quality time with your child, play games, take trips together.
  • Don’t ration or skimp on affection. Always make your child feel safe and loved when they’re around you. Touch, kiss, hug, and smile at your child as often as they wish.
  • Remember that rewards aren’t synonymous with affection. A good prize can serve as an incentive for your child, however, it will never replace parental affection.

In the most extreme cases, it’s possible to seek the help of a psychologist, who will try to promote family unity. The idea is to provide all family members with the necessary tools so that they can build an attachment with the affected child. In this way, they’ll have the affection, attention, and emotional support necessary to alleviate the consequences of the emotional deficiency.

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.

  • Contreras, G. (2010). “La Carencia Afectiva Intrafamiliar en niños y niñas de 5 años” (Tesis.) Retrieved from
  • Jaar, H. E., & Córdova, V. M. (2017). “Prevención de la carencia afectiva crónica: nuevos paradigmas en el modelo de familia de acogida temporal”, Revista Chilena de Neuro-Psiquiatría, 71. 55 (1): 44-51.
  • Papalia, D. (2003). Desarrollo humano. México: McGraw-Hill.

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