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Book Review: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. It is an essential component of communication and how we interact with the world. Emotional intelligence is influenced by genetics and our childhood experiences, meaning our parents can nurture these qualities within us as we grow and develop. What happens when our parents do not have a great deal of emotional intelligence or maturity? One book seeks to provide some guidance and reassurance for those who have grown up in these situations.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” by clinical psychologist Lindsay Gibson, PsyD explores the effect of parents who are emotionally unavailable. The book reflects on emotional experiences and the long-term effects that having this type of parent can have.

It is easy to invalidate your experiences if you did not suffer from physical abuse or neglect. This book aims to create a space for those who had emotionally disengaged parents. Gibson separates between the identity of the emotionally immature person and their role as a parent. She gives insight for the reader to view their parent like a conscious observer, helping to better understand the behavior as well as how this might have impacted your ability to manage your own emotions and relationships.

Gibson breaks down the emotionally immature parent into several archetypes as well as the emotionally neglected child’s coping style. You might identify it as internalize, someone who retreats inwardly and attempts to become self-reliant. You may know someone who is an externalizer, seeking emotional soothing through relationships, objects, and behaviors. The author encourages adult children to acknowledge and process their family dynamics to bring peace to all their relationships. This comes through skills like setting boundaries, accepting your parent for who you are, and managing the ‘realities’ between parent and child.

I felt that this book is a great tool to understanding common family dynamics and change the framework of how to interact with an emotionally challenging family. It gives some basic tools on how to navigate a relationship with healthy boundaries and managing expectations of the relationship. This book is better if you are in the beginning of a self-awareness journey that will validate experiences and add tools to your psychological toolkit. If you are looking to get into the specifics of why your parents developed into parents who lack the skill or more intense skill-building you may need to look further.

Overall, this is an easy-to-read and approachable self-help book that can provide a great deal of insight on family dynamics as well as bring awareness to individual behavior. This is a worthy addition to any therapist shelf to recommend to clients or on the shelf of your home library. Just don’t let your parents see it.

Melanie Hanson was a student intern at Cypress Wellness Center working towards an LMHC licensure through a Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development at Lindsey Wilson College. She has an interest in narrative, existential, and dialectical behavioral (DBT) therapy as well as attachment theory and the role this can have on your narrative. She believes that everyone has a unique story that they are the author of. Melanie is happy to help people revise their story for a more positive and accepting narrative.

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