With little effort on their part, toxic adult children are able to make others miserable with their dysfunctional traits.

What’s worse than unruly children? I think that would be adults who act like children, those who have toxic traits and ruin the lives of others. And yes, they do this. And where does this behavior come from?

Well, apparently, these adults have either gotten too little or not enough attention as a child. They seem to be forever stuck between the ages of 5 and 7 emotionally. Although they may be smart, they are also cunning and manipulative, just to name a few traits. And I am not blaming the parents, by no means. Sometimes dysfunctions come from other areas.

Toxic adult children are common

There are ways to recognize these individuals. Their traits are so heinous, they literally run others away from them. In fact, some of these adult children are so easily recognizable, you can avoid them.

However, there are a few that can hide their toxic traits for years, long after they’ve started a serious relationship. This is the most unfortunate part of all.

So, let’s look at some signs to help us recognize them. Because honestly, we either stay away from them or help them in a guarded position.

1. Physical health problems

Adults with child-like emotions often develop serious health issues either in early adulthood or later in life. As much as their toxic behavior affects us, it also takes a toll on them as well. You see, it’s hard to function as an adult with adult responsibilities but yet react with childlike emotions. It just doesn’t fit. The habits of child-like children, mostly diet, are horrendous.

This mismatch causes physical ailments from toxic stress, poor eating, and low activity levels. This amount of stress on the body causes an increase in cortisol which hinders healthy body proportion and weight loss. This sort of stress also affects the heart and nervous system.

If child-like emotions are erupting within an adult situation, the stress can be enormous for both the adult child and their victim, which is, much of the time, the parents.

2. Broken relationships

Of course, toxic adults cannot retain a normal relationship with another person. At least, it’s not a common success story. Adult stress from a child’s perspective will see most aspects of the relationship in a skewed manner. When it comes to intimacy or communication, these toxic individuals will have little idea of how to make their mate happy.

Remember, they are thinking with childish emotion. This is especially true with communication, where these individuals usually refuse to talk out problems, rather throwing tantrums or ignoring their mate altogether. They will apologize sometimes, but it’s rare.

3. Substance abuse

Not all adult children partake in substance abuse, but many do. One reason they turn to drugs and alcohol is that they watched their parents or some other relative do the same thing. But again, this can also come from other sources, such as childhood friends or just the need to be rebellious throughout life.

If they’ve experienced any type of abuse that caused this habit, they can become trapped at that moment, reliving the pain and heartache of various traumatic past situations.

Sometimes the parents may have neglected or abused the child unknowingly. I know, my parents left me home alone quite a bit with an aged grandmother. Needless to say, bad things did happen. Adult substance abuse can be attributed to many experiences of children.

4. Gaslighting and blaming

Toxic adult children will never find themselves at fault, at least for the most part. If you’re trying to deal with someone who never takes the blame or tries to make you feel crazy, you may be dealing with an adult child. You see, children often run from responsibilities and they often place blame on other children.

Most of us grow out of this stage and learn how to appreciate healthier qualities, but some grow up to plague their parents and loved ones with these horrible actions. The adult child, as they are stuck at that moment where something affected them greatly or stuck in selfishness, will rarely learn to be a productive member of society, in terms of getting along with others.

5. You will notice patterns and role switching

Adults and children are impressionable on one another. Toxic behavior can spread from parent to child easily and vice versa. If the child has grown to only become an adult child, then sometimes their offspring will grow into the same pattern of behavior with their children, putting extra strain on the grandparents.

On the other hand, these grandchildren may also dodge these attributes and become the parent of the family. You see, someone has to take care of responsibilities and if the parent, or adult child, doesn’t do this, the real child will have to forego childhood to take control. It’s a sad situation. Many times the grandchildren see their grandparents as their real parents because of the stability they often provide.

Do adult children ever grow up?

Parents, if you want to understand how to handle your adult children, then you must take a few considerations.

  • Stay confident: adult children tend to bring down confidence levels with their actions. Stand firm when dealing with them.
  • Don’t go it alone: seek professional help when dealing with your adult children. These toxic traits run deep.
  • Be kind but strong: tough love is sometimes needed, just make sure they know you love them.
  • Get educated! Read as much material as you can on this strange character flaw. Learn and apply what you learn.

Although it’s usually a grim diagnosis, some adult children eventually grow up a bit. They may not become the outstanding citizens they should have been, but they can become better equipped to raise their own children and hold down relationships. The toxic behavior of childlike adults is something difficult to conquer, but it can happen.

If this is something you’re going through, don’t give up. I have seen people change, but I have also seen them take quite a long time to do so. The keys here, I believe, is educating yourself about the subject and patience. I wish you the best.


  1. https://www.nap.edu
  2. https://news.umich.edu

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