Emotionally immature parents (Impact & healing)

Emotional immaturity can have a ripple effect across generations


Emotional maturity is the ability to acknowledge emotions in oneself and others. Of course, you can only recognize and validate the emotions of others if you acknowledge and validate your own emotions.

In other words, only when you have a healthy relationship with your emotions can you respond healthily to others’ emotions. Emotional maturity has a lot to do with how well you handle your emotions and, consequently, others’ emotions.

Children tend to be emotionally immature because they are self-centered and have a hard time putting themselves in others’ shoes

As children progress through the stages of psychological development, they develop greater emotional maturity. Emotional maturity is important for building healthy relationships and a necessity for healthy parenting.

When parents are emotionally immature

Emotional immaturity is the opposite of what we discussed so far. An emotionally immature parent has a childish relationship with their emotions, and as a result, they respond childishly to others’ emotions as well.

Like children, they tend to be overly focused on themselves and their own needs.

Emotionally immature parents also show:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Inability to recognize and meet their children’s needs
  • Aversion to emotional expressions
  • Aversion to emotional intimacy 1Dobrić, T., & Patrić, A. (2024). THE HIDDEN FACE OF PARENTING: EMOTIONAL IMMATURITYSCIENCE International Journal3(1), 145-148.

They tend to be clueless about how their responses, or lack thereof, affect other people. This makes it harder for them to reflect on their experiences, learn from their mistakes, and anticipate the future. 2Gibson, L. C. (2019). Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents: Practical Tools to Establish Boundaries and Reclaim Your Emotional Autonomy. New Harbinger Publications.

For example, you tell them you’re upset with them because they embarrassed you in front of their friends. Even if you don’t say it explicitly, it’s evident in your mood and facial expressions. 

Moments later, they ask if you’d help them prepare for a party they will arrange for their friends on the weekend. They expect you to be just as excited about the party. Your moods and emotions be damned.


Children need their parents to meet their needs, including their emotional needs. An emotionally immature parent is incapable of understanding and meeting the needs of their children, especially their emotional needs.

A parent who’s averse to emotional expression and intimacy will make their child the same way. This is because children who are criticized or shamed for feeling and expressing their emotions feel unsafe about sharing their emotional lives with others.

In this way, a parent who probably was unable to meet their attachment needs from their parents transfers their insecure attachment to their child.

Children who aren’t in tune with their emotions are held back in various ways. They struggle to find emotionally fulfilling work and relationships.

The opposite can also happen.

They may grow up to become level-headed and highly emotionally mature, a bit too much for their age. They learn early on that being emotionally immature can breed significant problems and conflicts, and they become highly motivated to avoid such conflicts.

They might grow up to become adults who do most of the emotional work in their relationships. That can create imbalance and resentment.


If you grew up with emotionally immature parents, you likely developed an insecure attachment style. Look into insecure attachment styles and how those manifest in relationships.

After you’ve uncovered your style, the next step is to start moving towards being secure. That involves a lot of inner work and healing your core wounds.

I’d also recommend trying to fix your relationship with your parents. Having a conversation about how their behaviors affected you can contribute significantly toward healing. Only do that if you’ve seen that they’ve emotionally matured over time. Otherwise, you risk rekindling old wounds in an unsafe environment. That doesn’t usually turn out so well. 

If you know you can’t have that talk with your parents, set boundaries with them. Avoid getting emotionally involved. Maintain a respectful distance.

If you’re too mature for your age, you’re probably tolerating too much emotionally from other people. You’re letting them push your boundaries. You ignore how they make you feel because you believe you can handle it all.

You can’t. You don’t have to prove your rationality and level-headedness to anyone. It’s a response you developed to cope. While it can be nice to have, sometimes you can take it too far. 

Sometimes, it’s okay to stop being overly rational and accept the reality of your emotions. Sometimes, it’s okay to confront others about how they impacted you emotionally. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t make you weak or emotionally immature.