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5 signs you grew up with an emotionally immature parent, according to a psychologist

An emotionally immature parent yelling at her daughter
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  • Emotionally immature parents have some core characteristics, like low empathy and self-absorption.

  • They might show up for you financially, but they can't emotionally connect with you.

  • Dr. Lindsay C. Gibson, a psychologist, shared how to tell if your parent is emotionally immature.

If you've ever felt like a parent doesn't treat you well — but they aren't physically abusive or particularly volatile — it can be hard to make sense of your feelings.

But parents don't have to be violent or completely neglectful to be emotionally immature. Dr. Lindsay C. Gibson, a clinical psychologist who wrote a bestselling book on the subject, uses official diagnoses like narcissism or borderline personality disorder sparingly, as they "tend to paint the personality with a broad brush," she previously told Insider.

Instead, she focuses on a few core traits that "emotionally immature" parents have. According to her, these parents may provide the basic necessities to their kids, but they still lack the ability to truly connect with their children.

"You might have nice clothes, you might have plenty of food," she told Insider. "But inside, you're likely to have a sense of emotional loneliness and a feeling that things aren't quite right, and it affects your sense of belonging."

Insider spoke to Gibson about the signs a parent or primary caretaker is emotionally immature.

They always bring the focus back to themselves

One of the more obvious signs of emotional immaturity is egocentrism and self-absorption, Gibson said. If you're catching up, they might ask you a question before bringing the conversation back to themselves.

This mindset influences how they treat you in general. "A person who is emotionally mature is going to be able to consider other people's rights and feelings automatically," Gibson said.

If they can't do that, they might see you more as an extension of themselves rather than an individual person.

They're never interested in your perspective

Another big calling card of an emotionally immature parent is a lack of empathy, according to Gibson. If you're in a disagreement, their point of view is always the correct one — no matter how glaringly wrong you feel they are.

"When something makes them feel uncomfortable or their self-esteem is threatened, they just change their perception of the reality," Gibson said. "They really can't take in other people's viewpoints — it just doesn't compute."

This is where behaviors like gaslighting can show up, because warping your version of events removes any threats from their own.

They don't apologize or try to do better next time

Because they're focused on themselves and aren't receptive to other perspectives, emotionally immature parents are unlikely to apologize or take accountability, Gibson said.

While many people can get stubborn or defensive in a fight, emotionally immature parents never have that cool-down moment where they reflect on the role they played during a blow-up, according to Gibson.

Since they're not curious about finding a middle ground or seeing where they could improve their communication, you might find yourself in the same types of disagreements over and over again — and walking on eggshells to avoid them. This is where setting boundaries can become important.

They're popular with other people, but distant with you

While the above behaviors might feel insufferable to you, emotionally immature parents may be able to hide them around others.

"They might be very socially skilled, they might be very popular, they might be good with keeping themselves under control," Gibson said. "But when it comes to that kind of emotional closeness where you open up to each other, that's where they really back up."

Another example is the "fun" parent — someone who might have played with you a lot as a kid but is otherwise passive, according to Gibson. The moment you start expressing your feelings, they pull away, reinforcing the idea that your vulnerability is too much for them.

They only show up for you in practical ways

If your parents paid for your college tuition or took great care of you when you were sick, you might feel ambivalent about the "emotionally immature" label. You might wonder how self-interested they could be if they made such big financial or time commitments in raising you.

"Those parents have done many wonderful things for their kids," Gibson said. "But if you'll notice, all those things have to do with tangibles."

While Gibson acknowledged that material benefits are important stepping stones to success, she also said that "growing up is so much more than your physical needs."

"It's crucial that you get the kind of emotional connection and empathy that emotionally mature parents can give their children," she said.

Read the original article on Insider