11 Signs You Have A Toxic Father, According To Experts
By the time you reach adulthood, you probably have some serious thoughts about your upbringing. Most parents legitimately try their best, but there are unfortunately some exceptions to this rule. Knowing the signs you have a toxic father can help you heal from past trauma, as well as refrain from repeating these mistakes with your own kids.
First, though, it’s important to understand what makes a relationship toxic in the first place. “In the context of parenting, the word toxic means they are hindering their child’s development and causing harm,” Dr. Kelly Campbell, Professor of Psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, tells Romper. Often these parents experienced neglect or dysfunction while growing up, then go on to replicate these maladaptive behaviors when raising their own children, as Dr. Campbell further explains. “Toxic relationships are marked by disrespect and devaluation,” Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication at Michigan State University and Director of the Family Communication and Relationships Lab, tells Romper. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when around this person.
Fortunately, you aren't doomed to repeat your father's behaviors. Simply knowing the signs of toxic behavior, and being aware of your own actions, can go a long way. Plus, you don’t have to give the toxic person a place in your current life. “Establishing and maintaining distance may be the healthiest choice in a toxic relationship that is not likely to change. Distance can be physical (you do not see them) or mental (certain topics are off limits or mental boundaries are drawn to protect oneself),” says Dr. Hall. You can also explore the option of counseling to address these pain points and find a healthier way to parent your own children. Growing up with a toxic parent is rough on any child, but you can identify the signs and move on to a happier future.
1. He's Disrespectful
Does it feel like you’ll never measure up to your father’s demands? “When someone consistently and intentionally makes you feel less than, not worthy, and disrespects you and your life, it is a toxic relationship,” says Dr. Hall. There’s a difference between expressing a genuine concern for your well-being or simply bashing every choice you make.
2. He Gives You The Silent Treatment
There are plenty of healthy ways to address conflict, and the silent treatment is not one of them. In general, the silent treatment is a sign of abusive control or punishment, as explained in Psych Central. It's a frustrating and ineffective tactic.
3. He Screams Threats
Out-of-control threats are not only the sign of a toxic father, but they are also wildly ineffective. In fact, constant threats may cause older kids to pursue disruptive behaviors, as reported by Reuters. Verbal hostility is real, and potentially damaging.
4. He Has Substance Misuse Issues
Does your father seem to turn into a different (meaner) person after drinking? As it turns out, alcohol abuse is another potential sign of a toxic parent, explains Dr. Campbell. Issues around substance misuse can certainly affect a person’s ability to parent.
5. He Doesn't Want You To Grow Up
Taking the regular steps toward adulthood should be celebrated. But in some cases, “the parent tries to keep the child dependent on them even when the child is an adult or becoming an adult,” says Dr. Campbell. In reality, growing up and maturing is simply natural.
6. He Has Violent Outbursts
Sure, anger can get the best of everyone now and then. But a toxic person may regularly experience violent outbursts and then blame you for the reaction, as noted by HealthScope. This kind of a bad temper is totally destructive.
7. He Provides Conditional Love
Ideally, a parent’s love is unconditional. But in a more toxic scenario, “the parent only shows approval or love when the child conforms to who the parent wants them to be,” says Dr. Campbell. There’s no space to just be yourself.
8. He Inspires Fear
Did you have to walk on eggshells growing up? If your father used fear as a manipulation tactic, then this is almost certainly a sign of toxic parenting, as explained in Lifehack. Remember, fear does not equal love or respect.
9. He's Narcissistic
As far as narcissists are concerned, they're the center of the world. So of course Dr. Campbell notes that parents with narcissistic tendencies can be toxic as well. Even after reaching adulthood, you may feel like your father's needs are larger than life — and far more important than your own.
10. He's Aloof
Speaking of unchecked narcissistic traits, narcissistic fathers who are aloof and removed from their children probably did not provide the warmth and care needed by kids, according to Psychology Today. It's potentially damaging.
11. He's Controlling
Did your dad monitor and manipulate your every move? Overly controlling parents may lead to kids with higher levels of depression and dissatisfaction, according to The Huffington Post. If this sounds all too familiar, then you may want to seek counseling for support.
Dr. Kelly Campbell, Professor of Psychology at California State University, San Bernardino
This article was originally published on