17 Traits People Develop Due to Bad Childhoods

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By Jonathan Trent

Having a bad childhood is nothing to be ashamed of, as it’s often out of our control. However, this doesn’t mean that children growing up in a toxic household will come out of it unscathed. Here are 17 traits that people, unfortunately, develop due to having troubled childhoods.

Low Self-Esteem

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If we have had a particularly bad upbringing, extreme feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy plague us as adults. This will manifest in having a hard time accepting compliments or praise and engaging in negative self-talk, as we haven’t been validated or supported as children. It’s sad but true!

Trust Issues

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Finding it hard to trust other people is common with those who have had an unstable childhood. They’ll be reluctant to form close relationships because of their inherent fear of betrayal and may even be paranoid or suspicious about others’ intentions.

Poor Emotional Regulation

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Those who didn’t have a great childhood are prone to frequent emotional outbursts, such as anger, frustration, or sadness. In fact, Psychology Today reveals that a difficult childhood places a person at risk of experiencing a high degree of negative emotion, so if you notice this in someone, go easy on them!

Fear of Abandonment

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A bad childhood experience can manifest in excessive clinginess or neediness in relationships as adults. This is because these individuals were frequently left alone when they were young, creating an unhealthy attachment between them and their parents and making them feel panic or anxiety at the thought of being alone.


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Any youngster who was put in difficult positions as a child will constantly be on edge as adults, anticipating potential threats or danger. They may become overly sensitive to changes in the environment or other people’s moods, feeling like they are always walking on eggshells.

Difficulty Setting Boundaries

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Parents who were abusive or neglectful frequently ignored their children’s boundaries and constantly invaded their privacy. As a result, these kids will grow up to be adults who have trouble saying no to others as they fear the consequences of setting firm boundaries. It’s an unfortunate way to live.

People-Pleasing Behaviors

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Every child craves parental validation, but in toxic households, parents never give it. This leads them to seek excessive validation as an adult in order to feel valued, which can be seriously damaging to their self-esteem. They may even come across as desperate people pleasers.


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Unrealistic expectations are commonly placed on children who grow up in a toxic environment. Because of their bad childhood, they will go on to set extremely high standards for themselves and become overly critical of their own performance and mistakes because of their low self-worth, ultimately becoming perfectionists.


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According to Business Insider, if you had a helicopter parent who didn’t allow you to make your own decisions, you may end up as a codependent adult. This is the case with those who have had a bad childhood, causing every decision they make to be dependent on validation from their friends or partners.


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Being constantly on edge in childhood can translate to making irrational or hasty decisions in adulthood without thinking about the consequences. Such victims will often channel their stress and panic into destructive habits, engaging in risky behaviors to quieten their minds and soothe their anxiety. It’s not good!

Anxiety Disorders

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A positive childhood experience normally allows kids to flourish, grow, and be confident in their adult lives. Sadly, those who were not treated well when they were young will be haunted by persistent worry and fear about everyday situations and the future, potentially fearing consequences that others would disregard.

Substance Abuse

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Using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with emotional pain is common with those who have had a traumatic childhood. Psych Central highlights that these children can grow up to become adults who internalize emotions and may even engage in acts of self-harm, such as excess drug or alcohol consumption.


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Those who were neglected as youngsters often feel persistent sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness. They rarely find fulfillment in their lives, as their interests and hobbies were often downplayed or criticized in childhood, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Sadly, only therapy can truly solve this problem. 

Difficulty Trusting Authority Figures

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With many neglected children becoming emotionally or physically abused by people in positions of power, they will often go on to have a deep skepticism of authority figures. In times of struggle or difficulty, they may even be unwilling to seek help or guidance from them because of their resentment.

Difficulty with Intimacy

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Struggling to form deep connections is directly correlated to troubled kids. CNBC explains that if a person grows up in a household where their feelings are never acknowledged, they learn that recognizing or respecting the feelings and needs of others isn’t necessary, meaning they will keep an emotional distance to protect themselves.

Chronic Self-Blame

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Terrible childhood experiences often lead children to internalize what has happened to them, believing everything was their fault. In their adult lives, they may overcompensate in situations by constantly apologizing or feeling guilty without a clear reason because, tragically, they view themselves as the problem.

Low Resilience

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The last trait on our list that people develop from bad childhoods is a lack of resilience. Unlike other people who have had supportive childhood experiences, they may have difficulty bouncing back from setbacks or failures. They’ll give up very easily when faced with challenges, unable to see them as opportunities for growth.

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