Whether you grew up with an unloving mother or you had a father who believed children should be seen and not heard, there's no question that your childhood experiences had a big influence on your life.
Even if you were fortunate enough to grow up in a loving home, there's a good chance you have a few memories that aren't exactly fond. Perhaps your parents expected you to be perfect. Or maybe your parents loved you but never gave you the skills you needed to be successful.
There's no such thing as a perfect childhood. And while some of your struggles may have helped you grow stronger, others may have left long-lasting emotional scars.
The Root of Your Problem
As you were growing up, you developed core beliefs that influenced everything from how you interpreted your circumstances to the choices you made.
But how much of your family dysfunction and childhood angst is related to your current struggles? Do your self-esteem issues stem from those critical comments your mother used to make about your appearance? Can you trace your anxiety issues back to middle school--the time when your parents began pressuring you to be an overachiever?
Sometimes, it doesn't take too much imagination to connect the dots between your current turmoil and the childhood experiences that started you down that path.
If you've ever blamed your parents for your psychological scars, you're not alone. Plenty of people are fairly certain their parents are at the root of their psychological problems.
What the Research Reveals
A 2013 study published in PLOS One examined the biopsychosocial model of mental health. This theory is based on the notion that mental health problems stem from a combination of factors:
- Biological - Biological factors include anything from head trauma to genetics.
- Psychological - Psychological factors include the way you think, like whether you experience a lot of self-doubt or whether you maintain an optimistic or pessimistic outlook.
- Social - Social factors may include stressful circumstances or learned behaviors that lead to mental health issues.
Researchers wanted to take a closer look at why some people emerge from difficult childhoods relatively unscathed while others experience lifelong consequences.
They found that the biggest factor influencing someone's resilience was their psychological processes. People who blamed themselves, blamed their parents, or dwelled on their negative experiences were more likely to experience ongoing mental health problems after adverse experiences.
That's not to say their psychological problems didn't stem from their childhood experiences. But those who blamed their current circumstances on their parents experienced higher rates of mental illness. When people change the way they think, their psychological problems improve.
Look for Explanations Without Making Excuses
While it may be healthy to look for explanations about why you struggle with certain issues, don't make excuses. Here's the difference:
- Explanation - "I grew up in a home with a lot of yelling so when I get angry, it's a habit to raise my voice."
- Excuse - "Screaming is the only way I could get my parents' attention as a kid so I can't communicate without raising my voice."
The good news is, despite whatever type of childhood you had, you can learn healthier ways to think, feel, and behave. And the first step in building mental strength might be to avoid blaming your parents for your current problems.
If you're having an especially tough time dealing with something from your childhood--or even something that occurred during your adult life--seek professional help.