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How People With Unmet Needs Respond

Children and adults with unmet emotional needs often develop coping mechanisms that manifest in various ways. This article explores four primary responses seen in children who do not feel loved, significant, safe, or that they matter.

1. Becoming Ill

When a child feels unloved or unsafe, they might develop psychosomatic illnesses. For example, frequent headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause can be a sign of emotional distress.

2. Excelling in Certain Areas

Some children respond by becoming exceptionally skilled or knowledgeable in specific areas. A child who doesn’t feel significant might become an academic achiever to gain recognition and validation.

3. Rebelling

Rebellion is a common response among children who feel their emotional needs are not met. This can manifest as defiant behavior or breaking rules as a way of seeking attention and asserting their significance.

4. Becoming a Caregiver

In some cases, children take on the role of a caregiver, especially if they feel they don’t matter. They might become overly responsible at a young age, taking care of younger siblings or even parents, as a way to find purpose and meaning.


Understanding these responses is crucial for parents, educators, and caregivers to provide the right support and intervention. Recognizing these signs early can help in addressing the core emotional needs of the child, fostering a healthier development.

Key Takeaway

Addressing the emotional needs of children is vital. Observing their responses can provide insights into their unmet needs, enabling adults to offer the necessary support and guidance. If an adult had unmet needs as a child then this may help them understand some of what drives them now.

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