Not respecting someone’s autonomy as they grow up can have significant and lasting effects on their development and behavior as adults. Autonomy is the ability to make choices and decisions for oneself, and when it is not nurtured or respected during childhood and adolescence, it can manifest in various ways in adulthood:
- Low Self-Esteem: Individuals who were not allowed to make choices and decisions for themselves may struggle with low self-esteem. They may doubt their abilities to make good decisions and lack confidence in their own judgment.
- Passivity: A lack of autonomy can lead to a passive personality in adulthood. These individuals may have difficulty taking initiative, asserting themselves, or advocating for their own needs and desires.
- Dependence: People who were not allowed to make decisions on their own as children may become overly dependent on others in adulthood. They may rely on others to make choices for them, leading to an unhealthy dependency on friends, family, or partners.
- Rebellion: On the flip side, some individuals may respond to a lack of autonomy by rebelling in adulthood. They may engage in risky behavior or make impulsive decisions as a way of asserting their independence.
- Difficulty in Relationships: Autonomy is essential in healthy relationships. Those who didn’t learn how to assert their autonomy may struggle with boundaries and communication in adult relationships, leading to conflicts and difficulties in forming healthy connections.
- Decision-Making Challenges: A lack of practice in making decisions during childhood can result in decision-making challenges in adulthood. Individuals may feel overwhelmed by choices or be overly reliant on others to make decisions for them.
- Anxiety and Stress: The feeling of not being in control of one’s own life can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. This can manifest in various ways, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and a fear of making mistakes.
- Resentment and Anger: Adults who were not allowed to exercise autonomy as children may harbor resentment and anger towards those who controlled them. This can affect their relationships and overall well-being.
- Lack of Goal Setting and Achievement: Autonomy is closely linked to setting goals and working toward them. Adults who never had the chance to develop this skill may struggle with goal setting and may have difficulty achieving their aspirations.
- Identity Issues: A lack of autonomy can hinder the development of a strong sense of self. Adults may struggle with understanding who they are, what they want, and what their values and beliefs are.
To mitigate these effects, it’s essential to encourage autonomy in children and adolescents, allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions and learn from their choices. As adults, therapy and self-help strategies can also be beneficial for those who have experienced a lack of autonomy during their formative years. Building autonomy as an adult is possible but may require effort and support to overcome the effects of a childhood lacking in autonomy.