Relationships: Evolution of the Parent Child Relationship – By Rajat Soni

Relationships: Evolution of the Parent Child Relationship – By Rajat Soni

 “Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”-Anthony J.D’Angelo

Our relationships begin with parents. They are the first people with whom we form an association of love, respect, and commitment. It is a given that we love our parents. Yet with growing age, from being a child to raising a child, the dynamics of our relationship with them changes.

To a typical four-year-old, their father is their hero and their mother is their safety net. For most teenagers, parents can appear to be dictators who stop them from living life in their ways.Whereas for an adult, parents offer a semblance of stability and mental support in an ever-changing world — and are a responsibility too. However, a young adult is a transitioning phase for both.

How the change unfolds over years?

During infancy (0-23 months) the interpersonal relationship between a parent and child is based on contact comfort and nurturing. An infant knows only his needs and parents are there to gratify them (especially the mother figure). The emotional attachment is more for the parents at this stage than the children.

In the next 4 years which is early childhood, the parent-child relationship changes, and centers around socialization. Parents teach us habits and they become our comfort zone.Children play with their parents, they are pampered and also scolded or punished. Children start looking up to their parents as their idols. For most daughters, fathers are the first heroes and for sons, mothers are the most beautiful ladies.

In the following years, until the age of 11 or 12 children are physically closer to their parents. They show their love by hugging or kissing. They cry if they are scolded and some even cling to parents. They are dependent on them for every small need.

The abrupt change in the parent-child relationship comes in Adolescence (13-19 years).

With the spark of pubertal changes, parent-child communication becomes less and the conflicts arise on petty mundane things. The parent-teen relationship has been discussed in detail in my article

The final drift is seen when children step into adulthood. Ages 20-39 is known as the Young Adulthood. By now, our parents start aging. Many are retired and expect their adult children to earn, raise a family, and look after their old parents. The picture appears to be a happy family. But this is the most challenging time for the relationship.

The quality of communication is significantly more intense now, the emotional attachment exists but is manifested differently. I mean, a 25-year-old boy would find it inappropriate to always cling to his mother and ask her to tie his shoes. But does that mean he doesn’t love his mom? Getting along with parents well seem to be the most difficult task to do as we grow old. We are engrossed in own commitments, career, and our priorities change.

Let me illustrate how answers to one simple question can vary for children of different ages.For example, if a parent asks “What are you doing now?”

  1. It would mean nothing to an infant
  2. The preschoolerwould not verbally answer, they will probably show or point at something.

III. The school kid would probably give an honest reply like “I am playing/studying /eating ” and so on.

  1. The typical adolescentreply could be one of the following:
  • “I am doing my own work.”
  • “Why do you keep asking the same question?”
  • “You can see for yourself.”
  • “ I’m doing what I do every day at this time.”

(The responses sound arrogant and can ignite a conflict).

  1. A young adult or an adultwould give a much-pacified response than the adolescent.He may say “not much, just the usual”.

The way we communicate drastically changes. And so does the tenets of the relationship.

When children are young, they are the first priorities of the parents. But as they grow and make their own families, their parents come in the second circle. This shift is hard to accept but it is a reality. The parents have voyaged through the same route. The drift in roles causes tension and can bring out old conflicts and severe the parent-child relationship.

There may be several reasons for conflict between a parent and a young adult including:

  • Less communication
  • Staying abroad for a long time for work/study
  • Maladjustment with the child’s spouse
  • Financial issues (parents often feel less informed about their child’s income).
  • Feeling unappreciated for the contribution they had in shaping the child’s life


Parenting style:

Depending on the way the child is brought up, shows up in the parent-child relationship in adulthood. Parenting can be broadly of two types:-

  • Nurturing Parentswho are emotionally warm and supportive. They are the guiding stars to their children. They are loving and at the same time teache values to their kids. Fewer conflicts arise in such families.
  • Controlling Parentswho try to dominate their children and have difficulty in letting them go even in adulthood. Such parents fear losing control over their child. This leads to either an emotionally detached kid or a rebellious one. In either case, the interpersonal relationship is poor.

Broken homes:

For children growing up in broken homes or with single parents, the scenario is mostly extreme. Either the child grows a very deep emotional bond with the parent or is completely detached.

A deep emotional bond leads to a positive relationship and less conflicts.

Reverse adjustment:

As a child, parents fit us into their lives, with their work, family and other commitments. But as a child grows to be an adult, it is the parents who need to fit themselves into the lives of their children. It is now the grown-up child who needs to work, raise a family and take care of their parents. A role reversal. I have seen parents complaining about the children not giving time to them and paying more attention to their work and spouse. They expect children to “return” the care they got in their early years from parents.


I can suggest 5 easy ways to maintain a healthy parent-child relation in adulthood.

What parents need to remember

  1. Release your children into their own world. Parenthood is not only about controlling your children. You are an inevitable part of their lives irrespective of your physical contribution.
  2. Appreciate and accept the changes in life.

What young adults need to follow

  1. Talk more with your parents.

Do not make them feel unwanted. Discuss your day and your future plans with parents. Most importantly, Be Respectful.

  1. Go out on trips.

It plays a great role in easing out the differences, conflicts and increase the quality of your relationship with them.

  1. Take some time out to recollect childhood memories with your parents. Resurrect the old happy times. It works like magic.

Young adults need love just as aging parents do. Nurture your relationship mutually, be a support to each other, and increase communication — that is the secret to a healthy parent-child relationship.

Rajat Soni
Rajat Soni

Rajat Soni is a globally Certified Teen Life Coach and Motivational Speaker, helping teenagers channelize their energy in the positive direction. He has assisted his clients in overcoming shyness and social anxiety, self-esteem concerns, learning difficulty and lack of motivation by enabling a strategic goal-setting process for them. Writing liberates him,connects him to his inner self and also provides him an opportunity to make a difference in the life of others. He is a published author and also has a blog.For more info please visit

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