Parental love is the first love that a child receives from his or her parents and it often sets a template for how the child will give and receive love from others outside the home.

There is a fundamental need to belong and be accepted that is ingrained in every human and the building blocks of how adults interpret love or rejection are usually formed during childhood.

The American Psychological Association noted that researchers have dug deeper into the roots of rejection and the serious implications they have on an individual’s psychological state and society in general.

It has been documented that social rejection can influence emotion, cognition, and physical health. Ostracised people sometimes become aggressive and can turn to violence. In 2003, a psychological analysis of 15 cases of school shooters found that all but two suffered from social rejection.

A media entrepreneur, Ayotola Ojo, shared with our correspondent a long-standing struggle he had with low self-esteem and social withdrawal which he said stemmed from a lack of love from his father.

He said, “Right from the time I was little he has never liked me. Nothing I did was ever right; he called me names and was always harsh towards me. At a point, I began to think maybe he isn’t truly my father but we look alike.”

“All through my teens and much of my adulthood, I struggled with low self-esteem and social withdrawal. I knew I was gifted with certain abilities, but I couldn’t even see them because I was a psychological mess.”

“I have repeatedly tried to win his love but it is now clear to me that he might not really hate me, but obviously hates an aspect of his personality that he never dealt with but sees in me.”

Florence Idowu, a teacher, had a similar experience. When she was young, her mother left her father and remarried, but she left them with her relatives.

“When she left my dad and married another man, she sent my sister and me to her mother and later on, our aunt. We didn’t really experience parental love there. We were treated like house girls.”

“As an adult, that upbringing affected me so much that I find it difficult to say no to people even those who only wanted to exploit me. It was when I realised the extent of how lack of love had affected my thinking about myself and others that I began to confront these issues,” she said.

Morgan Mandriota, in an article on Psych Central, mentioned several effects of being unloved during childhood that influence an adult.

Symptoms identified include insecure attachment style, undeveloped emotional intelligence, impaired sense of self, lack of trust, difficulties navigating boundaries, choosing toxic friends and partners, being dominated by fear of failure, feelings of isolation, extreme sensitivity, feeling conflicted and generally insecure, and mental health conditions.

A child development psychologist, Mrs Theresa Okun, explained that parental love could be showcased in different ways and if it is missing it could affect the child negatively.

“Parental love has to do with the affection, care, comfort, concern, nurture, support, and acceptance that a child can feel from their parents. Parents can show love to children through positive words they say to them or about them, physical touch, giving them gifts, playing with them, and lovingly talking to them.”

“When parents constantly shout at their children, talk to them using a harsh tone of voice, consistently berate them, reluctantly praise them or not even acknowledge when they do something right or encourage them when they miss it, there is a gap that is often left in that child’s mind and if it is not filled with that love, they will seek it outside the home.”

“It is one of the reasons you will find some children who have almost everything money can buy but they will still rebel and hang around street gangs. It’s because that is where they perceive a sense of belonging and acceptance.”

Pamela Li, in an online publication that provides parents and caregivers with science-based parenting information, Parenting For Brain, explained that an absence of parental love is experienced as hostility, indifference, and lack of care.

“Without a parent’s love, children feel rejected. Parental rejection is experienced as cold, unaffectionate, hostile, aggressive, indifferent, neglected, or lack of care.”

“Rejection is manifested in behaviour such as hitting, pinching, mocking, shouting, cursing, belittling, uncaring, unconcerned, uncaring, or saying unkind or sarcastic things to the child. Some parents may also appear bitter, resentful, irritable, impatient, or antagonistic toward their children,” she wrote.

Many psychologists believe that an emotional bond called attachment is developed between an infant and an attachment figure during the first year of life.

According to this theory, an attachment figure is usually the mother but it can also be the father or other primary caregiver. Attachment behaviour is an infant’s strategy to seek proximity to the attachment figure.

A British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, John Bowlby, proposed the Attachment Theory after he studied the negative impact of maternal deprivation on young children. Bowlby observed that early attachments could significantly impact a child’s emotional development and adult relationships in later life​.

The United Nation Children’s Fund, in a lengthy article, explained how providing the child with love and affection is a prerequisite for the healthy development of their brain, their self-confidence, capacity to thrive, and even their ability to form relationships as they go through life.

“When you notice your child’s needs and respond to them in a loving way, this helps your little one to feel at ease. Feeling safe, seen, soothed, and secure increases neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt.”

“When a child’s world at home is full of love, they are better prepared to deal with the challenges of the larger world. A positive early bond lays the ground for children to grow up to become happy, independent adults. Loving, secure relationships help build resilience, our ability to cope with challenges and recover from setbacks,” it reads in part.

UNICEF also suggested ways by which parents can build a strong connection with their children.

“Notice what they do. When your baby or young child cries, gestures, or babbles, respond appropriately with a hug, eye contact, or words. This not only teaches your child that you’re paying attention to them, but it helps to build neural connections in your little one’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.”

@ PunchNewspaper

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