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How Codependency Develops in Childhood: Part 1 of a Series | Gena D. Richardson

Codependency is a behavioral condition that affects the way we relate to others. It is characterized by an excessive reliance on others for emotional support and validation, and a fear of abandonment. Codependency can develop at any age, but it often begins in childhood.

How codependency develops in childhood

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of codependency in childhood, including:

  • Childhood trauma: Children who experience trauma, such as abuse or neglect, are more likely to develop codependent tendencies. Trauma can damage a child's sense of self-worth and make them feel insecure and dependent on others.

  • Dysfunctional family systems: Children who grow up in dysfunctional families, such as families with addiction or mental illness, are also more likely to develop codependency. In these families, children may learn to suppress their own needs and emotions in order to cope with the chaos and instability around them.

  • Parenting styles: Certain parenting styles, such as overprotectiveness or criticism, can also contribute to the development of codependency. Overprotective parents may prevent their children from developing independence and coping skills, while critical parents may damage their children's self-esteem.

Signs and symptoms of codependency in childhood

Some common signs and symptoms of codependency in childhood include:

  • Difficulty making decisions without approval from others

  • Fear of abandonment or rejection

  • Need for constant validation and reassurance

  • Difficulty expressing emotions

  • Difficulty setting and enforcing boundaries

  • Over-reliance on others for emotional support

  • Taking on excessive responsibility for others

  • Difficulty trusting others

Treatment for codependency in children

If you are concerned that your child may be codependent, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help your child to understand the root of their codependency and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Treatment for codependency in children may include individual therapy, family therapy, or group therapy.


Codependency is a complex condition with a variety of causes. However, it is important to remember that codependency is treatable. With the right support, children who are codependent can learn to develop healthy relationships and live fulfilling lives.

Note: This is just part 1 of a series on codependency across the lifespan. Be sure to check back for future posts on this topic.

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