On my blog entry entitled Why I Relate So Strongly to Nina in “Black Swan”, a reader posted the following question:
Is being a childish adult also an effect of abuse? ~ Tentmaker
The short answer is yes – childishness can be an aftereffect of child abuse, and you don’t have to be childish in all areas of your life. In some areas of my life, I was very mature for my age. However, I was still very much a child in other areas.
This is just my own speculation, but that I think that the childishness comes from unmet needs in childhood. There is no question that children who suffer from ongoing severe abuse fail to have certain emotional needs met, with safety being the first obvious unmet need. I have written about the topic of unmet needs in great detail here, so I won’t repeat myself in this blog entry.
Some child abuse survivors, particularly if they were abused by their parents or guardians, might be childish or immature in many areas of their life. I suspect this is because the abuser wants to keep the child dependent. I saw this a lot over at Making Daughters Safe Again, which is a support website for survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse. Many women whose mothers sexually abused them throughout their childhood had trouble finding a way to break away from their mothers and achieve independent living.
Your reaction to the child abuse does not have to be that extreme, though. My forty-year-old sister wears her hair in pigtails, complete with little girl-style hair pieces, whenever she is in a bad mood. She says that it is impossible to be in a bad mood when you are wearing pigtails. (I replied, “Try me!” LOL) I wore my hair in a ponytail with little girl bows well into my thirties. I was also drawn to little girl types of clothing, such as sweaters with big teddy bears on them. My sister is obsessed with Disney World in part because it brings back happy childhood memories from an otherwise dismal childhood.
Another observation I have made is that many people who struggle with being childish in some areas of their lives are dealing with alter parts. (This is not always true – just something I have noticed.) When one of my young alter parts is out, I might feel a strong need to suck my thumb. I am a very responsible and mature adult and would never suck my thumb publicly, but I must confess that when this alter part comes out, I feel a very strong need to do it. Sometimes when I do something fun for my kid, such as ride on a merry-go-round, an alter part will “come out” and thoroughly enjoy it.
Photo credit: Hekatekris