24 thoughts on “How Emotionally Immature Parents Raise Emotionally Neglected Kids

  • November 3, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Dr Jonice Webb

    Thank you once again for expressing your own views on CEN, I look forward towards reading your Blogs and trying to understand my own situation with CEN. I’m 58 years old and for some reason this subject has preoccupied my mind for the past 2 or 3 years. Most of my life I always felt I was a little bit different than other people and having little ambition to invest in myself I became dependent on others to get me through those difficult times throughout my life. Growing up insecure not knowing what was wrong I became to experience internal and external behaviour issues such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, etc. All of these behaviour patterns caught up to me and I began seeking help over the years and my journey continues.

    • November 3, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Steve. I’m glad you have a therapist and are working on improving your life.

  • November 3, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I’m a proofreader so I spot errors and try to help the authors clarify their meaning. Is this correct:

    ‘they can increase their emotional immaturity’

    Should it be ’emotional maturity’?

  • November 3, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Hi, I read everything you write and follow you. It’s my opinion that so many people are products of this type of parenting and as you say they pass it along. Thank you.

    • November 3, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      I’m glad you agree, Ellen. Thank you for your comment.

  • November 3, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    Dear Dr. Webb,

    I was raised by a mother who would go on rants, and would turn on others rather than take responsibility for her actions. She passed away ten years ago, after ignoring me during the three months she was really ill…with no “I love you” or other message of love or support. I stayed really busy with work, my children, and hobbies rather than deal with my layers of grief. In the last couple of years my dad has started having memory problems. While working with him I have come to realize that he is a narcissist who cares very little about me or my family. Everything is about him at all times. For years I thought that I was the problem, that I didn’t belong, and I was unloveable. Thank you so much for your books and blog on CEN. They are really helping me come to terms with my parents and upbringing and start to make different decisions to recognize my feelings. It is having an enormous impact on my relationship with my husband and children. I am definitely a work in progress, but I finally feel that I’m on the right path.

    • November 4, 2019 at 8:16 am

      Dear Moira, I’m sorry you had these realizations about your parents because I know it was very painful for you. But at the same time, it set you free. You can now focus on yourself and the emotional well-being of you and your family. All my best wishes to you!

  • November 4, 2019 at 3:17 am

    Agree with this …symptoms are classic. What even more interesting as I read this article, those symptoms can be categorized as high-functioning autism.
    Maybe there could be a correlation to having immature parenting.
    I want to add… It can be just 1 parent and not both “parents”, being emotionally immature contributing to these issues.

    • November 4, 2019 at 8:17 am

      Yes, autism can mimic CEN, it’s true. And one parent is enough to cause CEN if the other parent does not compensate and/or protect the child.

  • November 4, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    You said:
    “While narcissistic personality disorder can be treated, it is a very different process than that involved in CEN recovery. And the effects on the children are very different.”
    I was raised by a violent and cruel narcissistic parent in addition to CEN. Will you write an article for those of us with layers of trauma on top of CEN? I do find your more general CEN articles helpful – thank you so much. I am in therapy and have been seemingly forever. I wonder if I’ll ever get it figured out but I am determined to raise my sons much more compassionately than I was and to be aware of the beautiful individual humans they are and reflect that to them. I struggle with self esteem issues that affect my career and adult relationships. I also know I can always learn more about being a better parent. Thank you for all you do.

    • November 4, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      Dear Lily, thank you for sharing your story and your suggestion. I certainly can write an article about that and will add it to my list of topics. I applaud you for doing your best to give your children what you didn’t get yourself. That is wonderful.

  • November 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    What if one parent fell into one category and the other parent fell mostly in the other? Or they have traits of both types of immature parents?

    • November 4, 2019 at 8:47 pm

      Dear Leigh, I don’t think the exact types of your parents is as important as how it all affected you. Maybe you can turn your attention to yourself, and what you are left struggling with as a result.

      • November 5, 2019 at 9:54 am

        Of course, how we feel is important. However the article says that the effect on offspring is quite different. So I was curious to know what you had to say about those of us raised by both types. I’m really just responding to your article. Thanks so much.

      • November 5, 2019 at 5:53 pm

        I can’t really answer this complex question in this venue. In a nutshell, and way overly simplified: Narcissistic type CEN parents can cause more personality type problems in the child, while pure CEN parents tend to cause pure CEN in their kids.

      • November 7, 2019 at 12:56 pm

        Thank you for your reply.

  • November 4, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    ticking off the list, I must note that the behaviors of alcohol-using parents mimics that of CEN parenting.
    Comorbidity may be significant, or CEN describes caregivers who themselves avoid normal (i would hypothesize “normal” as a long-evolved inherent trait, as it seems to require high stress and low tress-tolerant parents to so abuse a child as to confer the failure to recognize the absence of supportive loving behaviors toward intimates in the individual).

    I originally grasped that Dr.Webb had identified something absent in myself upon first answering her questionnaire. My own journey, one of attempting to avoid blaming their failures while trying to understand why emotional coldness was so common as to be almost ubiquitous in this culture, ;ed me to sharply associate the high correlation of observed alcohol users parenting as one of the roots Dr. Webb purposely omits, perhaps due to alcohol use’s very ubiquity in this society.
    In a few other cultures with which I’m familiar since childhood, absence of parental and extended family expression of love and care was pretty much the single correlation.

    the internal path that quickly developed in myself was one of periodic desolation, a quite normal seeming expression of love, but low tolerance for abuse, high resentment toward clear abuse (no matter to whom an abusive act, including ignoring – extremely antisocial in some cultures – was directed).
    I note that in this culture, males avoiding expression of feelings exceeds that of any other significant culture I’ve experienced, although I’m aware that several exist.

    A woman who studied the devastating effects of alcohol use in NW Ontario cree village as it took over the culture penned a book with the completely appropriate title:
    “A Poison Stronger than Love.”
    I have never seen alcohol users , no matter how otherwise “functional”, rising to the normal level of love and care common in those absent its use.

    Having quickly acquired Dr. Webb’s books, I can note that she HS identified a cultural lack far more grave than it may appear. Our prizing, electing and emulating the psycho- and sociopathic, and the malignantly narcissistic (of which I have only experienced one astonishingly destructive individual upon attempting to return to this culture, but have become able to identify accurately across behavioral and speech spectra since. this problem is , again, perhaps related to societal stressors making the exhibiting adults distressingly obsessive and expressing excessive time-bound self-narrative)

    A culture in which adults excuse narcissism in themselves while excoriating it in their children creates explosive individuals. The problem of a mammal merely spawning and emotionally leaving is one which can be traced back generations , at least back to the 1800s in the USA.
    I’ve even experienced devastatingly misguided psychiatrists treating subadult young as if they somehow could suddenly develop into functioning adults when the subject has no experience whatsoever of such normal expression in their past.

    THe recognition may only pass from blame to tolerance with decades of aging.

    While Kahneman and Tversky noted the problems of falling prey to overgeneralization ad stereotyping mid-20thcetury, and later, Dunbar and others found that we all fall into these rather ucivil mental states when groups surpass a relatively small number worldwide,
    the problem is inherently one of cultural transmission, as well as one which may require abandonment of alcohol as a socially acceptable norm.
    I realize it has been tried in early 20th c.

    Blaming occurs outside alcohol usage, but ingesting that poison is consistently comorbid with exteriorization of responsibility.
    Our species normally, again, embraces and takes joy in social and personal responsibility. A culture absent these is aberrant beyond any mammalian variables i’ve ever studied. even rather brutal closely related social primates tend to retain this trait , while our own does not.

    • November 5, 2019 at 7:43 am

      Dear M., thank you for sharing your thoughtful observations! The alcoholic parent is one of the 11 types of emotionally neglectful parents that I identified in my book Running On Empty. I surely do agree that alcoholism, along with other addictions, is a prime cause of deflection of responsibility and emotionally neglectful parenting. I did not focus on it here because I wanted to keep the emphasis on the behaviors of the parent and the effects on the child rather than the causes of the parents’ behavior. Thanks again for your comment.

  • November 5, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    Hi dr Webb. Thank you for all of you articles. They really strike home with me. Can you suggest which of your books I should start with. My marriage is in dire straits due to my lack of emotional intelligence and the neglect my wife has suffered from at my hands. I score on every point of your questionnaire and feel really lost as to where to begin. Thank you. John

    • November 5, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      Hi John, I recommend you read Running On Empty first just because it really sets up an understanding that will help you absorb Running On Empty No More better. If you find it hard to read ROE, then just move on and read ROENM. Hope that makes sense!

  • November 24, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Thank you for your work, your posts are helping me to heal while I also see a therapist. Would it be possible for you to ever do a post on emotionally immature parents who also have alcohol use disorder? I grew up with CEN and as I am working with a therapist, realizing that my parents (while outside the home may seem highly functional) have alcohol use disorders. I did not realize this until they came to visit and they consumed an entire handle of alcohol, too many bottles of wine to count, beer etc etc. It hit me like a rock when I was cleaning that when I actually was able to see how much they drank that perhaps part of the CEN was/still is contributed to alcoholism. Is CEN with alcoholic parents different? I am working on figuring out, setting and enforcing boundaries so I can continue to live healthy and heal. Thank you.

  • November 24, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Hi Dr Webb. I also wanted to point out that I believe another type of Emotionally Immature Parent is one who cannot handle emotional intimacy and therefore makes fun of situations or people when intimate emotions are expressed. This is my father. When we were kids and he wanted to give us bedtime kisses and hugs, he would do so in a joking manner with a high-pitched voice and chase us around the house because I would run from him since I thought he was “gonna get me” and I should run from that odd behavior. Now even as a 65-yr-old man, he still cannot have intimacy with us. I can barely get him to hug and say “I Love you” (I’m always have to initiate). After departing from our visit to see them last year, my husband of 12 yr told my dad that he loves him and gave him a hug and my dad actually made fun of him and got that high-pitched voice again, laughed and said, “I love you too, Markalus (my husband’s name),” while looking at me and avoiding my husband’s eyes altogether. My husband also gave him a hug and my dad tried awkwardly bro-hugged him and would obviously rather do a handshake as he normally does. I’m so frustrated when we visit my family. I think your tips this week for dealing with CEN families for Thanksgiving actually apply every time we visit them. Thanks for all you do 🙂

  • November 24, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    I so appreciate these blog posts! I am seeing a therapist and making progress with self-love and allowing more joy & abundance, and appreciation; into my life. It all started with your questionnaire! I am grateful for finding you. Thank you.


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