Why Do Some Parents Reject Their Children?

Before invisibilizing or judging parents who reject their children, it's important to address the issue that prevents healthy bonding.
Why Do Some Parents Reject Their Children?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 21 June, 2023

Parenthood is an experience that has multiple nuances. It’s unique and not all people experience it in the same way. In some cases, there are parents who reject their children and who fail to connect with them, and this causes them deep frustration and guilt. Especially because it’s expected that you have to love your children.

Behind this mandate, a discomfort that not only brings with it consequences at a personal level but also impacts the children and their family nucleus is made invisible. Before denying that there are parents who reject their children, it’s best to address the issue.

You may be interested in: What It Means to Be a Mother or Father

About the rejection of parents towards their children

Before investigating why there are parents who reject their children, it’s important to understand that this rejection can be expressed in many ways: Hostility, indifference, or neglect, among others. But the consequences always affect both parties, with an impact on self-esteem, on the feeling of being loved and valued, and on trust. Hence the importance of its approach.

A woman who's feeling overwhelmed by her toddler daughter.
Love isn’t unconditional, but’s full of conditions, context, and circumstances that facilitate or hinder the relationship between parents and children.

Know why some parents reject their children

First, it’s important to recognize that the relationship between parents and children is a bond that’s built and influenced by multiple factors. Therefore, personal characteristics, the context, or the vital moment, among others, come into play. How certain circumstances are presented will allow the experience to be positive or negative. Therefore, it’s also important to take them into account when dealing with rejection.

Negative attachment experiences

There are parents who don’t manage to establish a bond of emotional connection with their children because they don’t have a healthy and loving attachment bond in their own experiences. Consequently, they have an open wound that they haven’t yet been able to heal and that’s an obstacle.

Therefore, reflection is one of the parental competencies that invites you to think about your own childhood, upbringing, parental models, and aspirations. However, all this implies a work of openness, recognition, forgiveness, and analysis, which is as necessary as it is painful.

The pressure of parenthood

In many cases, there’s a rejection of children because the decision to become parents wasn’t a choice, but rather a social pressure. There are an endless number of mandates that we hear and that, sometimes, end up making people give in to motherhood, even when it really isn’t desired.

However, becoming parents is an experience of enormous complexity, which requires dedication and that can cause bitterness when it’s not wanted.

Perinatal or postpartum depression

Pregnancy is a revolution, as physical and hormonal changes take place, as well as emotions that oscillate between joy and fear or stress and tiredness. Also, economic worries appear, along with all the expectations that surround the situation, create an overload. All this can lead to perinatal depression (from the beginning of pregnancy until the baby’s first year of life) or postpartum depression, and make it difficult to establish the bond.

In order to support the mother, it’s important to differentiate this type of depression from the baby blues, which are of short duration and take place within the first week after the birth.

A worried woman looking at a pregnancy test.
The thought of giving up certain things and the responsibilities to come in the face of an unplanned pregnancy can lead to the rejection of the child.

Unplanned pregnancy

In some cases, the origin of the rejection has to do with the fact that the child on the way wasn’t in the plans. Also, because the parents-to-be aren’t in the best moment of their lives or in their relationship as a couple.

Expectation versus reality

Many times, rejection has to do with the idealized view of what it means to be a parent. We usually only talk about the rosy side of parenthood: The baby’s first words, breastfeeding, the first laughs, and other beautiful memories. However, little is mentioned about the mental overload, work worries, lack of intimacy, or the loss of one’s own spaces. It’s also important to show that B-side so that the expectation isn’t suddenly pinched and everything seems insufficient.

Let’s normalize asking for help

We’re not worse parents for accepting that we feel rejection toward our child and asking for help. In fact, it makes us better because we can seek a solution and avoid harming another person who depends on us. The quality of attachment is the foundation on which self-esteem and subsequent relationships are built. In fact, many times, that rejection isn’t even related to the child in question, but to previous experiences from which we need to recover.

If you’re in a similar situation or know someone who is, remember that feeling rejection toward your child doesn’t make you the worst parent in the world: You’re a person with fears, experiences, pains, and anxieties, who deserves to feel good and who isn’t alone. Putting a name to emotions, validating what you feel, and developing coping resources are some ways to be able to turn an enjoyable experience around.

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.

  • León-del-Barco, Benito, & Felipe-Castaño, Elena, & Polo-del-Río, María Isabel, & Fajardo-Bullón, Fernando (2015). Aceptación-rechazo parental y perfiles de victimización y agresión en situaciones de bullying. Anales de Psicología, 31(2),600-606.[fecha de Consulta 24 de Agosto de 2021]. ISSN: 0212-9728. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=16738685023
  • Rosas Mundaca, Mario, & Gallardo Rayo, Iris, & Díaz Angulo, Pamela (2000). Factores que influyen en el apego y la adaptación de los niños adoptados. Revista de Psicología, IX(1),0.[fecha de Consulta 24 de Agosto de 2021]. ISSN: 0716-8039. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=26409110

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