Parental Rejection in Adulthood

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The effects of being rejected by a parent in adulthood can seep into other areas of your life. The consequences of parental rejection vary depending on your situation, but whatever the reason for the rejection, there is no doubt that it is generally accompanied by pain and other emotions that can follow you into other relationships.


The effect that the rejection of a parent may have on an adult child’s self-esteem is dependent on the child's sense of acceptance by her parents, according to Angela Herd, a British Columbia-based child and family therapist. The more an adult child looks to her parents for acceptance, the more the rejection will hurt her feelings of self-worth. For example, the more you looked up to your mother and found self-esteem in her approval, the more her rejection will affect your self-esteem.

Intimate Relationships

Being rejected by your mother or father as an adult can affect your relationship with your significant other. If you have a history of rejection, especially from a parent, you may find yourself perceiving your partner’s communication patterns in negative ways, according to Herd. You may find yourself becoming defensive or easily sensitive because of past insecurities, which can be aggravated by parental rejection. Herd suggests focusing on learning to self-regulate so that you can decode and better understand your partner’s true intentions.

Relationships With Children

The stinging rejection from a parent may also affect your relationship with your child. Just like you may misinterpret rejection from your significant other, you may also start to misinterpret your child’s communication with you as rejection, says Herd. For example, if your child is in the normal developmental stage where he is learning to say no and become more independent, you may mistakenly interpret this as his rejection of you as a parent. Different people react in various ways; one of them could be by becoming overprotective of the child as a result of the insecurity that comes with being rejected, says Herd.

If you are depressed as a result of the rejection, your child may also not be getting the affection, attention and communication he needs from you, according to a study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” in 1992.


Seek a counselor who can help you sort through your feelings of rejection. The first step is to look at how the rejection from your parent is affecting you. Is it causing ripples in your relationships, your work or your parenting?

An important part of getting over parental rejection is to develop satisfying intimate relationships, says Herd. Part of that is by self-regulating and being able to fully understand how you may be misinterpreting communication as a result of your experiences with rejection.

It’s important to build self-esteem in different areas of your life. Look at what you’re good at and focus on your self-worth outside of parental acceptance. Also, develop a strong social support of people that you feel a kinship with, says Herd. This will help you feel accepted by people, despite being rejected by a parent.