Emotional Neglect in Your Childhood: Why You Experienced It But Your Siblings Didn’t

Emotional Neglect in Your Childhood: Why You Experienced It But Your Siblings Didn't
It is possible that you were emotionally neglected in your childhood, but your siblings were not. How is that possible? There are many factors that can explain why some children are more neglected than others.

The less you resemble your parents, the more they have to work hard to understand you.

The Story of James

James has always been confused about his family. He’s always sensed that the family is disrupted, but he’s never been able to figure out exactly why. Until he realized that emotional neglect runs in his family. Now that he realizes that he is not fully aware of his feelings and does not understand them, he sees the same signals in his parents and his youngest sister. But strangely enough, his older brother doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. Puzzled, James wonders how he and his sister can suffer so much from their emotional neglect when his brother doesn’t. They were all raised by the same parents.

Michelle’s story

26-year-old Michelle sits at the table in her parents’ house during a family dinner. As she watches her siblings, she thinks about how different she is. Currently, two of them are laughing and talking to each other, while the third is having a deep conversation with her parents. Michelle has been working on the effects of her emotional neglect for a while and is now paying more attention to her family. As she watches the interaction between her family members, she wonders why her siblings don’t suffer from their parents’ emotional shortcomings. “Maybe I’m not really emotionally neglected,” she thinks.

Emotional Neglect in Your Childhood: Why You Experienced It But Your Siblings Didn't

What is emotional neglect in your childhood?

Emotional neglect occurs when parents pay too little attention to their children’s feelingsChildren raised in such a family do not learn how to see, understand or express their own emotions. In fact, they even teach the opposite. They learn that their emotions don’t matter or are a burden. And besides, they don’t learn useful emotional skills to ultimately lead a happy and emotional life.

So what do Michelle and James see in their parents? They saw an emotional hole, the fact that they avoid important conversations and tend to have superficial interactions. James and Michelle remember feeling very lonely in their youth and they still feel that way today. Only after finding out that they have been emotionally neglected do they understand what is wrong and begin to heal.

Why aren’t my siblings emotionally neglected?

Of the thousands of emotionally neglected people I met, many were confused that one or more of their siblings had not been affected by their emotional neglect. And now I understand why. How can two children who grew up in the same family experience their emotional lives so differently? At first, I didn’t think that made sense. But there are reasons for that. Good reasons. Let’s go through them.

Emotional Neglect in Your Childhood: Why You Experienced It But Your Siblings Didn't

Six ways your siblings may have been affected in a completely different way by their emotional neglect:

  1. Gender
    Emotional attention is something complicated. Some parents who emotionally neglect their children may be more empathetic with one gender than another. For example, a daughter may receive more emotional attention than the son or vice versa. This all happens very unobtrusively, of course.
  2. Family Changes
    Some parents who emotionally neglect their children may find it difficult to cope with a situation where they can give less emotional energy or attention to their children. For example, this could be because they divorce, remarry, move house, lose their job, have financial problems or experience a death, which suddenly leaves them with less emotional energy for their family. Maybe one family member gets enough emotional attention, but another member doesn’t.
  3. Personality and Temperament
    No child chooses to be emotionally neglected or does anything to deserve it. But all children are born with temperaments and personality traits that only they have. And there’s a harsh reality to that: the more you resemble your parents, the better they understand you. And the opposite is also true. The less you resemble your parents, the more they have to try their best to understand you. If one family member is easy to understand, it may be more empathetic. This gives it an emotional edge, even in an emotionally neglected family.
  4. The Favorite Child
    The worst thing a parent can honestly do is have a favorite child. This is detrimental to all children. It is often narcissistic parents who get more satisfaction from one child than the other. Maybe one child does better in school, has a special talent, or just has a trait that the narcissistic parent values. That child gets extra attention for which there may be no good reason to come up with. The favorite child grows up a lot less emotionally neglected than his brothers or sisters. But take a look below the surface and it is very likely that this child too has been emotionally neglected.
  5. Birth
    order This has to do with the situation of your parents around your birth. How many other siblings do you have? Are you the oldest, the youngest or the middle child? Research shows that first-born and youngest children receive more attention, which means that the middle child in a family is often more likely to be emotionally neglected. But the youngest child may also receive less attention, for example, because the parents are tired at that point. There are many factors that can explain why some children are more neglected than others.
  6. Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP)
    Some children are born with a gene that has been scientifically proven to make them more emotional and sensitive. This can come in very handy later in life if you learned from your parents in your childhood how to understand your incredible emotional talents and use them to your advantage. But if you’ve been emotionally neglected by your parents, you’ve probably just been more adversely affected by the lack of emotional attention.

Trust your own emotional truth

Emotional Neglect in Your Childhood: Why You Experienced It But Your Siblings Didn't

Almost every child gets some attention from their parents. The questions that can show if you’ve been emotionally neglected are: Was it emotional attention? And was that attention enough? Some siblings who receive different forms of attention may not appear to be emotionally neglected, but the effects of their neglect may not show up until later. Or maybe they weren’t influenced by their emotional neglect at all because of their genes or other factors in the family.

If you’re paying close attention to your siblings and can’t see the effects of their emotional neglect, don’t start doubting whether you’ve been emotionally neglected yourself. You have been overlooked enough in your childhood. So don’t doubt your own emotional truth.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here