> Adult Child Syndrome



I get many requests to work therapeutically with readers on the topic of Adult Child Syndrome. While this is flattering, I cannot establish a therapeutic relationship outside Washington State. A preferably in-person relationship with the right psychotherapist will do much to heal in this area. To explore the topic more I highly recommend reading Complex PTSD by Pete Walker

Adult Child Syndrome

While the concept of the adult child was originally developed to explain the difficulties of men or women who grew up with an alcoholic or addict in the home, it is also valid for the adult children of narcissistic, traumatized, depressed, numbed, workaholic, abusive, 'borderline' or psychotic parents. (It can also come about through the impact of early sicknessdifficult birth, or medical care) For such adult children shame is a given. However there is an additional pattern of self-disempowerment that arises from adapting from an early age to a tyrannical, capricious, and invalidating environment.

Far less than half the time, children will adapt to growing up in such a situation by 'identifying with the aggressor,' (For a picture of what that looks like, see 'covert narcissist' at the bottom of my page on narcissism). But that is different from the more common pattern described below.

Those who adapt to rather than identify with the aggressor often develop in personal relationships a codependent role to those who identify with the aggressor (tyrants), but that is a different sphere of functioning. The Adult Child Syndrome speaks to social, professional, academic, and extended family life. Below are listed several traits from that pattern

Adult children are strongly represented in the helping professions, such as education, health care, social services, therapy, etc... and so many of the traits have been incorporated, at least in mild form, in the social norms of those communities.

Adult Child Syndrome does not deal with any 'new' issue, as far as psychotherapy and healing go. Rather it is a global look at a pattern of functioning in which the burdens of adulthood are accepted but the joys of adulthood are not.

Core Traits