The Impact of Early Emotional Neglect

The Impact of Early Emotional Neglect

Many of us are wandering the world bearing a lot of emotional damage. We may be depressed, anxious, or very difficult around sex in relationships. We might ask ourselves where the difficulties came from. It’s a continually weird provocative and yet, in our view, extremely accurate answer, that the damage comes almost always from childhood. Especially early childhood. How we were cared for as infants and children, has a disproportionate effect on how we will relate to others in adulthood. What we need above all else is a responsive parent; An adult who looks after our needs with sensitivity and kindness. This is quite literally life defining and life saving. It sounds like nothing much and nothing too hard. But without this kind of responsive love, we are wounded for life. Many of us have been. Researchers have become ever better at showing the effects of neglect on children. One of the world’s leading expert is Dr. Edward Tronick, director of the Child Development unit at Harvard University. Together with his team, he’s responsible for one of the great experiments in the history of psychology, known as: The Still Face Experiment. Babies, this young, are extremely responsive to the emotions, the reactivity and the social interaction that they get from the world around them. This is something that we started studying 34 years ago. When people didn’t think that infants could engage in social interaction. In this Still Face Experiment, what the mother did was: she sits down and she’s playing with her baby who’s about 1 year of age. “My good girl!” And she gives a greeting to the baby, the baby gives a greeting back to her. This baby starts pointing at different places in the world, and the mother is trying to engage her and play with her. They’re working to coordinate their emotions, and their intentions. What they want to do in the world. And that’s really what the baby is used to. And then we ask the mother to not respond to the baby. The baby very quickly picks up on this. And then she uses all of her abilities to try and get the mother back. She smiles at the mother, she points. Because she’s used to the mother looking where she points. The baby puts both hands up, in front of her and says “What’s happening here?” She makes that screechy sound at the mother. Like: “Come on! Why aren’t we doing this?” Even in these 2 minutes, when they don’t get the normal reaction, they react with negative emotions, they turn away, they feel the stress of it. They actually may lose the control of their posture because of the stress that they’re experiencing. Watching the baby get distressed can be highly triggering. If a child can get so upset over a few seconds of cold and unfeeling behavior, we have a sense of what can happen over years or more of neglect. No wonder some of us don’t feel so well inside. We had an equivalent of a “Still-Face”-parent for our first decade and more. But knowing how vulnerable we are, it shouldn’t merely sadden us. We can take stock of how we’ve been failed and understand the link between the past and our present difficulties. Psychological research, like the Still Face experiment, is at the forefront of helping us to understand ourselves emotionally. Shedding scientific light on the origins of our sadness and complexity. Along the way, the experiment proves something else beyond doubt. Love isn’t a luxury. It’s a gateway to our very survival and sanity. Most books that want to change us, seek to make us richer or thinner. This book wants to help us be nicer, less irritable, more attentive, warmer people. Click the link to learn more.


100 thoughts on “The Impact of Early Emotional Neglect”

  • The School of Life says:

    Thank you for watching. What do you think of the findings discussed in this video? Let us know in the comments below or on our app and be sure to join our 7 days of bitesize emails that focus on different core topics (Emotional Intelligence, Confidence, Love, Work, Self-Knowledge) for free:

  • I was never abused. My family was really "happy". I mean my dad just called random girls. But when I was 9,he got a girlfriend. My mom couldn't divorce him as she didnt have a job. My dad would leave in the morning and come at night. Sometimes he wouldn't even come home. My mom didnt know how to drive a car and we only had one scooter, and my dad took it. We had to go a little far to buy food and we would sometimes starve. He didnt give us money. Later he started buying us stuff. But just that. My mom was diagnosed with depression and she started attempting suicide. She was so out of it for 2 years. She constantly told me I'm the reason her life got ruined.My dad also hit my mom during fights and tried to stab her with a knife once but stopped when I intervened. I had no friends either. Now I have friends but cant maintain a good relationship with them. I was also bullied. I try my best to understand my mom but she asks me what is it that you have to be sad about", "respect him bc he buys you things". We all still live together but are like strangers. My mom has a boyfriend too and I'm glad she moved on but she keeps telling me I'm at fault for being mean to my dad. I dont know if its neglect or not but I've been emotionally numb for the longest time

  • There's all kinds of people that will make your life miserable. Why would anyone do that to someone they Love? I always had a rule that there was no arguing in my house and no hate. The whole world went to Hell & I need a hug works well. Try loving/hugging the naughty out of a child & you have a happy child. I didn't know that I was supposed to tell my children not to tell me that they loved me in front of others because it would get them kidnapped. The last 4 word's that I heard my children say to me before they came up missing without a trace in the United States were "I Love You Mom". I cry so that others don't see the pain because I won't allow the people who have done this to have pleasure from the pain. I have nearly lost my life several times since the children's kidnapping and the theft of my identity at that time. I wear scar's from the very very brutal attempt on my life and I am legally blind due to the force of the blow's to my head and nearly every tooth in my mouth was fractured in that attack. But even in the past few months an order for Medical Tests was ordered but it has the wrong birth date on it. Not the same person, but the United States police will do nothing but aid and abett the criminals. We're praying we get out without being detained or killed in the United States

  • What about forgiving your parents and realizing their imperfection came from before you and likely from their parents. Its very highly likely that they were doing the very best they could with you and gave you just what they have.. You're alive to tell the tale and you still hardly appreciate that you've made it so far
    Now get your scars healed by forgiving them! They're not perfect! Even if they meant you harm acknowledge their weakness, to cause hurt and do injury and harm someone they even birthed and gave life to. Some people are just broken and we have to learn to allow them to be that way but also receive that this is how they are and move forward. I promise you the love you have for yourself is enough to get you through life and you will realize just how strong you are and how much you love yourself the more you make decisions that good parents encourage their children to make. Do good for your life anyway and let go of the idea of the parents you feel your parents were supposed to be..they did what they could.

  • The S/word 23 says:

    My ex mocked me for treating our children with love, I was home with an injury for all their early years, through to senior school, but she destroyed them with her ignorance, her selfishness, her verbal and physical abuse on them, now, amazingly, they treat me that way and respect her, but she is very wealthy, I am very poor I'm concerned they equate love with failure.

  • People stop being angry with your parents and start getting over it and fix your life as much as you can, keep blaming them will not help you, you will always get more aggressive, stop doing it, you can't change the past try to change your present.

    5 times more likely to commit suicide

    32 times more likely to run away

    20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders

    14 times more likely to commit rape

    9 times more likely to drop out of high school

    10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances

    9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution

    20 times more likely to end up in prison

  • I’m struggling to overcome the maltreatment I received off of my father after I lost my mother.
    I feel like there is a wall between myself and everyone else. I never feel fulfilled in love.

  • After the breakup, my brother's ex left their children locked in their bedroom regularly, while she fucked her way through my town's supply of low-standard men.
    For YEARS 🤬
    He's got partial custody after a hard legal battle but I worry the damage is done from her selfish neglect

  • From 3:09 to 3:29 I began to feel this little one's trauma, and at the end began crying with relief it was just an experiment 😔

  • Grand parents raised me till 8
    Bio mother took over at 8,
    Never had a relationship with bio father,
    Hated them both ran away from home at 15,
    On my own ever since
    Still don't talk to either bio,
    Grand parents taught me everything showed me love

  • The damage is not from simply childhood but also a neglect of the spiritual life. Too many adult babies walking around blaming their parents for their own stupidity.

  • I go one step further whereby I believe that specific mental development happen at certain chronological time and the growing problems of homosexuality, transgender etc is a result of the child not getting the right stimulus at the correct time and thus causing gaps in the developing brain which is filled by alternative realities!

  • At least now I know why. I wish you all inner healing and forgiveness or should I say through forgiveness. It is the only way to be free of the past. I love you all!

  • Okey the first 5 years might set the core of a child but there's no such thing as most important years of a child. In your relationship with your children its a life long responsibility even if they turned 20 or 30 you can still damage their psychology if you mess up with them maybe that wouldn't change their personality at this point in their life but still who knows. Thats why being a successful parent is much more important than any achievement people can have in any career.

  • Damage may come from childhood but it doesn't have to stay in adulthood. Check out NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) for more info.

  • Trinada Griffin says:

    I'm 12 weeks pregnant, I hope I dont ever get this wrong. I'm do scared I'm going to mess up.😥 I need to be a perfect mom! My mom really failed at this. How can I succeed

  • So the baby is raised with affection and becomes disturbed when the affection is removed BUT what happens if the baby never experiences affection and then is showered with it? What are the effects of moody parents who at one minute shower the child with affection but the next minute they are showered with insults? How does this roller coaster ride fare on a child's psyche? What are the real damages when a parent tells the child they do this out of love. Does the child grow up expecting the world to treat them badly as a sign of acceptance? When that doesn't happen do they get depressed because they don't feel accepted?

  • My parents shouldn’t have been parents.
    At one point I actually wanted to have kids and it took a lot for me to stick with my decision of not having them because I know I will let them down and not prepare them properly. I’d be so angry and I would be what I didn’t want to become.

  • 8/6/19: This vid should be titled "The Origin of Mass Shooters".  The root cause is maternal neglect of baby boys and the life long damage it causes.  Single and working mothers are now legion.  Their children are raised by uncaring day care workers and then ignored by the working/single mother when they get home.  Add this to the well documented fact that mothers are biased towards baby girls to the detriment of baby boys.  And lets not forget that "boys being boys" is considered toxic and they are now force fed psychotropic drugs in mass to turn them into little girls that their female teachers and mothers prefer. 

    Society and their mothers hammer into them from birth that they are flawed second class human beings.  And then when they lash out in frustration, pain, and fear society can't seem to identify the real problem so instead society blames guns.  Why, you ask?  Because the success of feminism has destroyed the nuclear family.  Feminism has brainwashed women into being more than happy to sacrifice their own children for their "career" as a wage slave on the corporate plantation for their "empowerment". 

    Just look at the time line.  Prior to the 1970's mass shootings were rare as hen's teeth, yet guns where just as plentiful as they are today.  Mass shootings ramped up in the 1990's along with the rise of 2nd wave feminism.  The success and excesses of 3rd wave feminism in the late 2000's matches the explosion in mass shootings.  Facts are facts.

    Baby boys don't turn into mass killers on their own.  Someone caused them to turn dark and that person is the mother.

    To close, the root cause of mass shootings is feminism but no one dare say it aloud.  End of story.

  • Heartbreaking what some children have gone and go through since the beginning of humanity and what adults will ultimately carry in their childhood. Break the cycle…heal thyself

  • William Brennan says:

    I wonder how much of this is generational. It was thought that back in the 1960s when birth control became more reliable and widely available that a mother would be able to spend more time nurturing one or two children. Unfortunately the culture, society and media changed also, gearing people to be more self centered. I think people born before this probably got better parenting, even though a mother’s time might have been more divided.

  • In elementary school I always cried when I saw a picture of a few month old baby saying how this baby is sad and lonely not even realizing am projecting my own feelings burried in lost memory of pain being left by my own mother month after I was born into care with same cold woman her mother and 18y old aunt to whome I can thank that I am not completely emotionally damaged bc that girl my aunt gave me sense of motherly love but when she started her own family I felt left again. And that feeling never goes away.

  • Alex my little Budgie says:

    I want to have children, my career however, will put my family at risk. However, i would love a family, so I don’t emotionally or verbally. Physically abuse my family like my family did. I would love to take a class, on how to raise a healthy, happy, and kind child into and equally healthy, happy and kind adult. Anyone know any?

  • I've been emotionally neglected by my mother my whole life (father abused then abandoned me). So that explains why I'm so fucked up today with severe anxiety and depression

  • Maureen Hansen says:

    What about the father? What if they get it from the mother but not the father? Why didn’t they include such a vital part of the equation?

  • Foster care is even worse. You're bounced around to several homes before age 18. Sometimes with 8 other kids. And then you have to leave shortly after turning 18.

    Foster care is a business. Most don't seem to care.

  • Being a parent is more than providing shelter, food, clothing, etc. Its more than teaching your kid things like "don't talk to strangers" (anyone can teach a child something) and right from wrong.

  • After attending early development lectures, I shared with my dad about how children who grew up with love or whom were seemingly ‘spoilt’ would grow up with a better chance of being an independent and a high achieving adult but he just brushed my words away like I was dumb while insisting that the asian parenting style is never wrong

  • I was neglected from the age of 5 to 17. I remember nearly all of it like it was yesterday.
    Now I am married with a young daughter. All I can say is I know how not to be a parent. I'm sure my character has been affected irrevocably, just how I'm not totally sure.

  • Dr. Robert Plomin would disagree.His research says parenting that is relatively normal and non abusive is sufficient. The conclusion of his twin studies is that people are basically born to be who they are.
    My question is "How did the human race survive and thrive this long with instinctual and often harsh parenting?"

  • i’m 25 & because of early emotional neglect and absence i have severe codependency problems and developed borderline personality disorder. i struggle with terrible attachment problems. be there for your babies, your kids.

  • SuperSurvivor4 says:

    I know that this is experimental but it so made me cry to see the baby go through that even just for that short time.

  • As a baby in my high chair because I wouldn't eat the food offered, my mother threw a bowl of food at me, it connected I was screaming and completely covered in it. At 3 I had a broken hip which my grandmother picked up on, and insisted my parents take me to the doctor. It's a mystery one knows how it happened.
    I'm 5 and can't find my reader so I was made to spend hours looking for it, plus no dinner. Then they both decide I should walk to school and see if I can find it. So I did, it was pitch black, cold and raining, I vividly remember trying to open school doors but of course they were all locked. Then I walked home very fearful of what would happen next, to my relief my parents had regained their reason. Interesting thing was for the rest of my school days no teacher could get me to do homework, it didn't matter the punishment I wouldn't do it.
    That's just a few of many incidents, I was resiliant there was no one else to rely on.

  • My heart stops beating for a moment when I see mothers with their ears plugged while being with their baby… 🙄 and they don't realise what they are doing… great video

  • Sarah Dickerson says:

    My mom gave me away at 8 months old. My father had left when I was three months old. My legal guardian came out by moving another woman in the house when I was 11 and all structure and routine left the household. I became anorexic but I didnt even know what anorexia was. At 23 my boyfriend of 6 years left me pregnant. I'm happier alone. Ive learned you cant trust anyone to tell the truth or not leave you. You cant force people so see value in you.

  • I think a big downfall for me is chasing after people I know that don't want me to win their approval. It took 42 long and wasted years to connect the dots.

  • So basically we need housewives right ?? I m so confused, on one hand we are told about women empowerment and financial independence of women , and on the other hand if we go out for work then our kids get neglected …what to do ??

  • Keandra Harrison says:

    I try not to judge ppl too much, but I once heard a pregnant girl say she would "feel stupid" talking to her baby!..I looked at her like honey you already are! Ijs

  • That child is probably permanently scarred from participating in this “experiment” like a lab rat.. I remember stuff from that age and the nightmares and abandonment issues are still with me. They don’t need to conduct experiments on babies. Just use common sense and look at the difference between the outcome of different parenting styles. Then decide how you want your child to turn out and raise them the way that results in a healthy adult. There are no guarantees but at least you can try.

  • I was sexually abused by a 3 year old when I was about 5. This has ruined my life in so many ways, so recently I decided to contact the wife of this " friend" ( he died many years ago) as I wanted closure and also wanted to find out if he ever talked to her about being sexually abused as a small boy ( because there was no way a 3 year old would know to do that except if someone did it to him) Her own son is now a very well known celebrity, so I had to be very discreet and carefull in my approach. I was shocked when I was met with extreme hostility and foul language and a week later she told me that she has not slept for one week. So I asked what is worse , one sleepless week or more than 50 years of living with this secret. She obviously thought I wanted to cause trouble or wanted money which is not like me at all. I decided to try and move on , as this was going nowhere. But at least 2 friends asked me why this bothers me after so many years and that I should leave it in the past. This added to my feeling of despair and being alone in the world with no one who really cares, or understand what something like this , together with physical abuse by a father with a very short temper could cause to a small child

  • Genuine Sanity says:

    I came from a dysfunctional early childhood. It has gave me a very low self esteem and cost me success , money , love etc. At 55 years old I'm still trying undo this, all my ventures fail for one reason or another that i could never predict. The universe doesn't give you what you want , it gives you what you think you deserve. Low self esteem will ruin your life no matter how good your intention, products , plans. Until you sort out your inner vibe all ventures will fail.

  • assasinho lightworker says:

    I struggled when the mother wasn't engaging with baby. My sister and I was both emotionally neglected children and it had a devastating effect on our later lives. Kids need love. My children have love in abundance and they are doing fantastically well in life. Great knowledgeable video that all new parents should watch. And before anyone has children let it be known that it is the hardest job in the world but most rewarding.

  • Vagno Fernandes says:

    My parents pooped in my life when I was a toddler. I need to handle with lack of love and connection till today, I'm 38. Hard, quite hard to live with so many cracks in the soul. I've been experiencing ayahuasca, mediunic sessions, therapy and nothing seems to solve 100%. I'm just trying to get used to it, pain, because hurt.

  • I recently finally got to grips with my troubles. Childhood neglect . It turned me into a stonefaced fearsome adult with exaggarated respect too others and none for myself or care for myself . It took some tremendous effort to make this state of mind conscious and fighting the everpresent apathy connected to it. I turned on a smile on my face everytime i felt that I was submerged into "this state" of apathy. Instead of staring numb at people when having a converation I would invite them and let them now without words that they are important and interesting. In my spare time (Im single ofcourse) I just watch YT self help videos until I get tired and go to bed. It keeps me focused to resolve my emotional problems and reliefs me from the pain , that im not alone in this battle. Still feel (Always felt) disconnected and awkward together with people and I fear that it wont go away. But there is a long way to go yet. Now turning 56 y old. Much of my efforts might come to late for a lifetime of suffering.But at least I have a monster to fight against every day. Wich I dident know that I had until recently. Sometimes i have to give up because the battle is tiresome and exausting and then I open a bottle to fog away….
    I feel quite bothered by watching parents staring into their smartphones with a blank face not noticing that the toddler is trying to make contact.I see this every day. I hope many Parents watch this clip and think again.

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