Psychology & Mental Health

7 Painful Psychological Effects of Growing Up Without a Mother

Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

Growing up without a mother can feel incredibly lonely. However, there are psychological issues that can arise due to this single-parent dynamic.

There are definite psychological effects of growing up without a mother. Absent parents leave long-term imprints on growing children that can affect relationships, education, and many other aspects of life. This is more evident when children grow up without a mother. Cognitive and non-cognitive abilities are fostered by parental guidance.

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.”

Princess Diana

What Are the Psychological Effects of Growing Up Without a Mother?

If you’ve grown up without the influence and teaching of your mother, it’s probably been confusing. Maybe you’ve noticed differences between you and your friends, coworkers, and partners. And, honestly, things are different, down to your mindset even.

There are several psychological effects of growing up without a mother. Let’s take a look.

1. Unhealthy relationships

Growing up without the emotional support of a mother can prevent a child from understanding their feelings. When entering intimate relationships, you may find yourself unable to communicate properly, respect your partner, or exhibit healthy intimate behaviors.

Not having the teachings and emotional support of one parent, especially for extended periods, can drastically affect how you view relationships in general. And considering a parent was absent, you will also have problems understanding the feelings of your partner as well.

2. Commitment issues

Whether it’s an intimate relationship or friendship, commitment may be difficult for you. When you grow up without a mother’s love and devotion, these feelings may not come naturally to you. You will probably be less likely to engage in meaningful long-term relationships because you are afraid of losing your loved one later on. This is especially true if your mother has passed away. The fear of commitment becomes instinctual.

3. Educational effects

Children who grow up without a mother may have short and long-term cognitive effects as pertains to formal education. In fact, if you did not have your mother growing up, your grades may be lower, and you may not have attended college.

Studies in China show that motherless children indeed had a lower percentage of university attendance. And, overall morale and willingness to learn are decreased as opposed to the motivation of children with two parents in the home.

4. Heightened stress levels

Children raised in a single-parent home, especially one void of a mother figure, suffer from stress. If you’ve lost your mother to death or separation, any trauma in life may feel stronger and more threatening. This is because a mother is more likely to buffer the child from various hurts and dangers.

Mothers provide emotional support during times of trouble, and without them, this support is gone. In the absence of the mother, these dangers become more terrifying, thus an increase in anxiety and anxiety disorders.

5. Increase in depression

The lack of parental support in early childhood may contribute to depression as well. The reason for this is interesting and makes sense. If you are without a mother in early childhood and into adulthood, you may suffer from low self-esteem, no personal control, and problems with family members causing estrangement. These three factors, when present, can cause depression.

6. Social anxiety

Unlike other forms of anxiety, social anxiety involves directly dealing with other people daily. The absence of a mother can make you feel self-conscious and awkward. This may be because of the inability to bond with a mother figure, thus causing the inability to bond with women in adulthood.

You could have trouble talking to men or women if you don’t understand them or yourself very well. Social anxiety can also breed distrust that further isolates you from others.

7. Complacency

Growing up without a mother can cause complacency in life. If you are an adult product of a single-parent household, you may feel as though there is a hole inside. This emptiness can prevent you from moving on and growing stronger. It can hinder your goals and put a hard stop on your dreams. If you cannot deal with these feelings, you will be unable to heal from the loss or absence.

Learning to heal

There are many reasons why you may have grown up without a mother, but, among all the negative psychological effects that come from the situation, there is hope. Many people that come from single-parent households learn how to cope by becoming independent and helping others.

However, it is important to seek professional help as early as possible, so you understand what you’re going through. Then, you can use your skills of survival to thrive and teach others what you have learned. You can navigate your new life. So, if your mother was absent from your life, it’s time to face this truth head-on. I wish you the best in rebuilding your confidence and dreams for the future.

Good luck!

View Comments

  • Good insights. This also applies to women whose mothers were so distracted, busy, angry, or perhaps mentally ill. Emotional neglect has an invisible but corrosive effect on children and inhibits their natural development. This is sometimes the case of the mother having had a difficult relationship with her own mother. When such vital connections are absent, a girl grows up feeling isolated, lonely, and unimportant. She is left to her own devices when she is faced with difficult issues. That can make the girl quite vulnerable, as she will seek understanding and affection from others who might exploit her. She's likely to make poor decisions or enter into unhealthy relationships. When she becomes a mother to her own child, she has no self-confidence. It's not enough to just have a mother; having a negligent or abusive mother can inflict as much, if not more, damage. To survive this and find her way to being whole, a girl needs a lot of determination and patience. When she becomes a woman, she is unprepared. Unless this cycle is broken, many families just repeat the same mistakes from generation to generation.
    A mother's presence and her willingness to fully engage are vital to a daughter's well-being and to her positive development.

  • Daphne,

    I am that girl that wasn't the perfect mother to her son. I was young, with low self-esteem, and ill-prepared to make the right decisions. I drank smoked pot, and let my little boy spend much of his time in his playpen. I fed him, clothed him, and kept him safe. But there was some level of emotional support and comfort that I did not provide as I should have. I discussed this with him since he's become an adult, and we've had arguments too. I know that he must heal, and I am still healing. Yes, I feel regret for the things I did not provide emotionally, as I was not given these things as a child either, and thought it was normal. However, we're working on things, and I hope some other young mother sees this and realizes that her priorities are her children. If they aren't given the love and emotional support they need, it will damage them. God forgive me as I try to be a better person every day.
    Thank you for reading.

  • I’m a 28 year old AA male who grew up without a mother, I never thought to research my own circumstances until now. Reading this really helped me. Now I understand much more about why I am the way I am. 🙏🏿

  • I also grew up without a mom she was emotionally absent since I was age 9.she had cancer and stayed in her bedroom and bed all day.I didn’t have anyone to feed me cloth me guide me…

  • Mary, I am sorry. Not having this emotional bond with your mother is heartbreaking. However, when healing, remember that this was something difficult for your mother to do. I did not go through this myself, as I lost my own mother to cancer when I was 25. So, I had the opportunity to bond with her. But, I will tell you this, for some reason, I and my mother were still not that close. As I think of her, I have trouble remembering many of her personality traits and such. I simply did not know her. Instead, I spent more time getting to know my aunt who was more open and conversational with me.

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Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.