Causes of Codependency and Childhood Trauma

Topic: Family Psychology
Words: 1003 Pages: 1


Codependency and childhood trauma are some of the serious consequences of people being abused by their narcissistic or alcoholic parents. Men are burdened by societal expectations, thus, leading to them struggling with self-esteem, depression and substance use more frequently than women. The following proposal features a study based on a questionnaire with 125 men and 125 women aged 18 to 25. For the study, their gender, behavior, assessment of therapy and the scope of rendered services will be reviewed. The results are based on individual characteristics, relying on the men and women’s consent to the asked questions. The results of the study may provide a more detailed understanding of how narcissistic and alcoholic parents affect a person’s mental health. However, it is important to mention some of the limitations involved. The aforementioned societal expectations are the cause of men being less open about their experiences with abuse. This could add some inaccuracies to the questionnaire and leave some issues unsolved.


The concept of codependency is one of the recurring themes in the discussions of childhood struggles, caused by alcoholic and narcissistic parents. This term is generally defined as one’s preoccupation with others’ problems as opposed to personal affairs (O’Brien and Gaborit 1992). Despite the apparent connection between the specified conditions in families and offspring’s mental health, the challenge is multi-faceted and includes other factors, such as gender and particular issues. Therefore, the topic is interesting due to the ambiguity of children’s future in terms of their particular characteristics, and it is important for updating treatment recommendations.

Literature Review

The previous studies aimed for investigating the presence of codependency in adults as a result of their childhood struggles are critical sources, allowing to conclude on the presence of clear patterns. The majority of publications, devoted to this subject, confirm that women’s experience is different from that of men since they are more vulnerable due to the need to adhere to social norms (Leslie 1995; Loring and Cowan 1997). Moreover, their issues are gender-specific and include higher risks of depression, low self-esteem, and self-silencing (Petrie,Giordano, and Roberts 1992; Reyomeet al. 2010). Hence, it is crucial to determine the influence of gender as these findings confirm the presence of varying coping mechanisms.

Other aspects, emphasized by scholars in previous works, are the context of childhood abuse, its implications for mental health practitioners, and the connection between codependency and narcissism. Thus, the affected individuals are prone to shame and unhealthy attachments, and for social workers, their determination depends on the detection of contextual challenges in families, while alcoholism and narcissistic tendencies of parents seem inessential (Wells, Glickauf-Hughes, and Jones 1999; Wells et al. 2006; Evgin and Sümen 2021; Irwin 1995; Kim 2015). The proposed study aims to examine the correlation between the discussed factors and the quality of care provided for individuals. In this way, the research question is: How should healthcare services for codependent people be readjusted with regard to their gender and demonstrated behaviors?



The participants in the study are female and male patients with the history of childhood abuse. All participants are between the age of 18 and 25. They all may possibly grew up with a narcissistic parent. They are going to be randomly selected from the database with regard to the specified criteria, and 125 men and 125 women will respond to the questionnaires, developed by researcher Alston, their inclusion will be beneficial for determining the effects of childhood abuse and narcissistic parents on codependency.


In the suggested study, the variables are people’s gender, their self-reported behavior, their assessment of provided care, and the scope of rendered services. These variables will be measured by the use of scales, designed on the basis of questionnaires, including the mentioned aspects. In this way, the degree of codependency in the affected individuals will be reflected by the overall effectiveness of coping techniques and other measures.


The data collection will be carried out by receiving the responses of the participants as per the questionnaire and analyzing them in order to reveal recurring patterns of behavior and general satisfaction with implemented solutions. As a result, the conclusions will be made regarding the influence of individual characteristics and the deriving need for readjusting treatment. The study’s only ethical issue is the necessity to receive the informed consent of participants for processing personal data, and it will be ensured before the beginning of investigations.


There will be qualitative research done in the form of a questionnaire. There will be emails, phone calls and interviews with random participants of the study. We will review specific patterns, whether children from abusive homes struggle with co-dependency and if their parents were narcissistic as well. We will also assess their struggles with alcohol abuse, if there are, and how it may have affected their lived. As mentioned earlier, consent is a crucial ethical issue, thus, certain questions may be avoided if the participants will be reluctant to answer them


Some of the limits of this study is that some people may not actually be telling the truth about their childhood experience or even their mental health in the moment. Reasons may vary from the aforementioned societal norms (men being less open about their issues), upbringing and personality. Moreover, certain participants may find specific questions triggering, thus, there is a chance that they may avoid answering some of the questions. Since consent plays a significant role in the study, some of the people may not be present for certain interviews. These factors may lead to inaccuracies in the portrayal of the issue at hand.

However, in case at least half of the participants answer most of the questions honestly, this research could serve as a ground for following surveys and questionnaires on the matter to review more specific aspects of childhood trauma and co-dependence caused by alcoholic and narcissistic parents, such as: how men and women experience it, the frequency of substance abuse in such children and the neglect they may have experienced.


Evgin, Derya, and AdemSümen. 2021. “Childhood Abuse, Neglect, Codependency, and Affecting Factors in Nursing and Child Development Students.” Perspectives in Psychiatric Care: 1-15. doi:10.1111/ppc.12938

Irwin, Harvey J. 1995. “Codependence, Narcissism, and Childhood Trauma.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 51 (5): 658-665. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199509)51:5<658::AID-JCLP2270510511>3.0.CO;2-N

Irvine, Leslie J. 1995. “Codependency and Recovery: Gender, Self, and Emotions in Popular Self‐Help.” Symbolic Interaction 18 (2): 145-163. doi:10.1525/si.1995.18.2.145

Kim, Hye-Sun. 2015. “The Relationship of Codependency and Mental Health in Social Worker.” Journal of the Korea Academia-Industrial Cooperation Society 16 (5): 3162-3171. doi: 10.5762/KAIS.2015.16.5.3162

Loring, Susan, and Gloria Cowan. 1997. “Codependency: An Interpersonal Phenomenon.” Sex Roles 36 (1): 115-123. doi: 10.1007/BF02766242

O’Brien, Patrick E., and Mauricio Gaborit. 1992. “Codependency: A Disorder Separate From Chemical Dependency.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 48 (1): 129-136. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199201)48:1<129::AID-JCLP2270480118>3.0.CO;2-C

Petrie, Joan, Jeffrey A. Giordano, and Cleora S. Roberts. 1992. “Characteristics of Women Who Love Too Much.” Affilia 7 (1): 7-20. doi: 10.1177/088610999200700102

Reyome, Nancy Dodge, Karen S. Ward, and Katie Witkiewitz. 2010. “Psychosocial Variables as Mediators of the Relationship Between Childhood History of Emotional Maltreatment, Codependency, and Self-Silencing.” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 19 (2): 159-179. doi: 10.1080/10926770903539375

Wells, Marolyn, Cheryl Glickauf-Hughes, and Rebecca Jones. 1999. “Codependency: A Grass Roots Construct’s Relationship to Shame-Proneness, Low Self-Esteem, and Childhood Parentification.” American Journal of Family Therapy 27 (1): 63-71. doi: 10.1080/019261899262104

Wells, Marolyn C., Michele B. Hill, Gregory Brack, Catherine J. Brack, and Elizabeth E. Firestone. 2006. “Codependency’s Relationship to Defining Characteristics in College Students.” Journal of College Student Psychotherapy 20 (4): 71-84. doi: 10.1300/J035v20n04_07


Evgin, Derya and AdemSumen. 2021. “Childhood Abuse, Neglect, Codependency, and Affecting Factors in Nursing and Child Development Students.” Perspectives in Psychiatric Care.

It is a correlational study in which almost 300 students took part. This study has a significant theoretical base and is funded by works on child psychology. It raises essential and not common issues of child codependency and identifies factors of codependency. This article’s conclusions emphasize the family and the identification of problems in relations between relatives.

Irvine, Leslie. 1995. “Codependency and Recovery: Gender, Self, and Emotions in Popular Self-Help.” Symbolic Interaction 18(2):145-63.

The study takes its foundation from contemporary rhetorical figures that influence and reflect human self-esteem. The rhetoric under consideration concerns the issues of female emotional dependence and codependency. The study offers a way out of codependent relationships, consisting of an equation. According to the results, co-dependent relationships may be a relationship option for people who do not have enough strength to challenge the status quo.

Kim, Hye-Sun. 2015. “The Relationship of Codependency and Mental Health in Social Worker.” Journal of the Korea Academia-Industrial cooperation Society 16(5):3162-71.

The study addresses a significant problem of codependence among social workers. The results can be applied to other professions where employees are prone to codependent behavior: teachers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, and many others. A strong dependence of mental health on codependent behavior was demonstrated, and more than half of the respondents (a questionnaire survey) reported mental problems.

Loring, Susan and Gloria Cowan. 1997. “Codependency: An Interpersonal Phenomenon.” Sex Roles 36(1-2):115-23.

The research deals with gender roles in relationships and codependent behavior in different sexes. The authors conducted an experiment and interviewed students concerning codependency and found out that many women suffer from such behavior but are considered the best partners. Men are often free from codependent behavior but are considered less comfortable partners. The study highlights the contextuality of codependency and the influence of the socio-cultural environment.

O’Brien, Patrick E. and Mauricio Gaborit. 1992. “Codependency: A Disorder Separate from Chemical Dependency.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 48(1):129-36.

The study is devoted to codependency problems in interpersonal relationships and chemical dependence. Studies show that codependent people with their partners are not more likely to use drugs than others. These two types of psychological dependence exist separately from each other. The results obtained may help further research this topic or the psychological aspects of chemical dependency.

Petrie, Joan, Jefferey Giordano, and Cleora Roberts. 1992. “Characteristics of Women Who Love Too Much.” Affilia 7(1):7-20.

However, women often enter into co-dependent relationships with men with chemical addictions. Studies claim that this is usually associated with low self-esteem in women or depression. This article presents a study of 52 women in co-dependent relationships who experience psychological problems. Psychologists set out to help them improve relationships with partners and families and get the attention they deserve.

Reyome, Nancy D., Karen S. Ward, and Katie Witkiewitz. 2010. “Psychosocial Variables as Mediators of the Relationship Between Childhood History of Emotional Maltreatment.” Codependency, and Self-Silencing. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 19(2):159-79.

It is an in-depth study funded by mathematical and statistical analysis. The authors analyze the psychosocial aspects of codependency and abuse: how people relate to violent acts. The authors raise codependency issues against the background of abuse and silence on acts of violence towards children. In the study, nursing students and their mediators were self-esteem, self-concealment, self-differentiation, and depression. Careful regression analysis showed that all psychosocial variables are interrelated: emotional abuse, self-silence, and codependency.

Wells, Marolyn, Cheryl Glickauf-Hughes, and Rebecca Jones. 1999. “Codependency: A Grass Roots Construct’s Relationship to Shame-proneness, Low Self-esteem, and Childhood Parentification.” The American Journal of Family Therapy 27(1):63-71.

The study highlights a link between narcissism and codependency that is not often seen in other articles. The authors found that codependent students sometimes act selfishly. The authors make an important suggestion that entering into and maintaining codependent relationships may mean that people experience fear of emotional intimacy and attachment. Such people are afraid of relationship pain and cannot trust, so they must control the relationship and maintain a safe distance.

Wells, Marolyn, Michele Hill, Gregory Brack, Catherine Brack, and Elizabeth Firestone. 2006. “Codependency’s Relationship to Defining Characteristics in College Students.” Journal of College Student Psychotherapy 20(4):71-84.

The authors analyze the relationship between possible codependency and parental guardianship, shame, self-esteem, and guilt. These are independent variables, three of which (parental confidence, shame, and low self-esteem) directly correlated with codependent relationships. People who experience parental overprotection and low self-esteem tend to enter into and maintain codependent relationships. On the contrary, the construct of codependent relationships turned out to be the opposite of the personality’s organization based on guilt. As a result, the authors also recommend getting rid of parental care, improving self-esteem, and getting rid of shame.

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