18 Adult Traits That Are Frequently Traced Back to Difficult Childhoods

If an adult had a difficult childhood, they’re more likely to display some traits that those with a more stable upbringing might not develop. In this article, you’ll discover 18 of those traits.


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The NY Post says that the average American feels insecure five times a day. Feelings of insecurity are often experienced by those who suffered a lot as children. Because of all of the emotional damage they went through, these adults may feel worthless and inadequate.

Substance Abuse

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According to the National Institutes of Health, there’s a correlation between adult substance abuse and traumatic childhood experiences. For example, in women, sexual abuse was significantly linked to lifetime cocaine as well as marijuana exposure. Physical abuse in men significantly correlates with current cocaine and lifetime/current heroin use.


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Estimates from the International OCD Foundation say that between 2 and 3 million adults in the United States currently have OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an issue with control in that people engage in excessive behaviors to make up for a lack of control they had over their lives as children.


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An adult trait that’s often traced back to a difficult childhood is hypervigilance. Because of the trauma that the adults experienced in the past, they’re always on edge and alert for signs of danger. This person might find it difficult to relax and feel comfortable around others.


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According to a study by Lifeway Research, almost 7 in 10 U.S. adults (68%) say they trust the people who live in their local community. But that still leaves a good percentage of people who don’t trust their neighbors. Feelings of distrust can stem from a difficult childhood.


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Due to the overwhelming stress that they had to deal with at a very young age, some adults might suffer from chronic stress. CPR Select says that stress can be very destructive, as it slows down some of our normal bodily functions: it’s even called the silent killer.


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Hypersensitivity is another trait that can be traced back to an adult’s childhood. An adult might be overly sensitive to any wrong done to them because they have already suffered so much and simply can’t take it anymore. These feelings may also make them feel overwhelmed.


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The statistics from Discovery ABA say that over 60% of adults in the United States report feeling lonely. Loneliness is a common feeling for adults who experienced trauma during their childhood. These adults find it hard to trust others and often end up isolating themselves.


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An adult trait that stems from a traumatic childhood is perfectionism. The adult might think they have to try to please everyone and control everything that happens in their lives because of the lack of control they had over their circumstances when they were children.


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Impulsive adults might be this way because of the difficulties they went through when they were children. An impulsive adult might make decisions quickly and often without thinking as a result of the inconsistent or unpredictable environments that they were subjected to all through life.

Conflict Avoidance

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Children who witness a lot of conflict when they’re growing up often find it difficult to deal with conflict as adults. These adults might shy away from conflict and feel reluctant to stand up for themselves when they’re faced with difficult, confrontational situations.

Attachment Issues

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Adults who went through trauma as children might have attachment issues, such as a fear of abandonment. These adults might constantly fear being abandoned in their current relationships, just as they were abandoned as children. They might need constant reassurance of love and commitment from their partner.

Difficulty Expressing Emotions

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Adults who experienced trauma as children might find it difficult to express their emotions. This may stem from the lack of emotional support that they had as children. They may not be used to saying how they feel and tend to bottle up their emotions.

Lack of Self-Confidence

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Another trait that is common among adults who had a traumatic childhood is a lack of self-confidence. An adult might constantly put themselves down or undermine their success because of feelings of failure when they were a child. The person will constantly feel negatively about themselves.


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An adult who went through a traumatic past might never have received justice for all of the negative experiences they went through. Because of this, the adult might feel resentment toward the person who made them suffer. Without justice or closure, the adult might never let go of resentment.

Constantly Seeking Approval

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An adult who constantly seeks approval from others, even when completing basic tasks, may be trying to make up for the lack of positive reinforcement that they received as a child. This adult may seek constant approval at home, when spending time with friends, and at the workplace.


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An adult who went through tough times as a child will not want their children to suffer in the same way. Because of that, they might try to create a sort of idealistic childhood for their kids. In an attempt to please their children, they might let them get away with unacceptable behavior.


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When an adult goes through a lot of trauma as a child, they may harbor a lot of negative feelings inside them that can make them feel angry. Because of this, the person might vent their anger and perhaps even become violent at what seems to be a small inconvenience.

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