How Three Unmet Basic Needs In Childhood Can Effect Future Relationships

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Many of us look back on our childhood with fondness. We have cherished memories with loved ones, a lack of worries we wish we could replicate in our current lives, and a pure curiosity about the world that turns everything into a beautiful, new experience.

Not every child is so lucky, though. Some face trauma we cannot even begin to imagine, and though it is cruel and unjust, that trauma creates gaps in the psyche that work their way into many areas of adult life. There are fundamental needs that can have huge effects on developing brains if gone unmet by parents or guardians, those effects impacting future relationships.

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Children Are Emotional Sponges

They are constantly absorbing the world around them. The things they experience in their youth, both good and bad, can leave profound imprints that last a lifetime. This not only applies to things that happen directly to them but around them as well, the environment they spend their time growing in, as they are genuine products of their surroundings.

A young boy smiling as he stands outside with his hands in his pockets.
Pexels / jonas mohamadi
Pexels / jonas mohamadi

Thankfully, many children are raised in loving, kind households with caregivers that provide all the stability they need for a sound upbringing.

What Happens To Those Who Aren’t?

Facing hardships as a child is, unfortunately, a lot more common than one might think. If you experienced trauma of any kind during your youth, know that you’re far from alone.

A very young boy sitting on a wooden bridge next to a teddy bear his size.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

Trauma can create some deep emotional scars, which survivors are largely self-aware about. Trauma in childhood specifically does pretty drastic things to the brain that get brought into adulthood, manifesting as emotional imbalances, triggers, and damaging thought patterns. This becomes doubly true if the trauma experienced leads to a basic need having been unmet during those crucial developmental years.

It Should Be A Given

When deprived of basic needs in youth, these kids will find themselves constantly vying for that specific need in adulthood, sometimes to the detriment of their own health.

A silhouette of a woman lifting her baby up above her against an orange sunset sky.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

Because they were never taught that they deserve these things simply for existing, they think they have to work to earn them somehow, which can lead to self-destructive behavior. These gaps in emotional development can also present themselves as persistent fears and doubts in relationships.

Time And Time Again

It’s all about repetition. As soon as your brain recognizes it’s in a situation where it can receive these needs, it will kick into overdrive, trying to get them somehow. It’s a very primal sense of desperation spurred on by latent childhood fear. This can turn into behaviors that disrupt relationships of all kinds, causing rifts that could have disastrous results.

A couple sitting on a bench facing away from each other, the man hiding his face in his arm.
Pexels / RODNAE Productions
Pexels / RODNAE Productions

Three unmet needs, in particular, are notorious for causing later issues, resting heavily on the minds of those who missed out on them as they grew.


Safety needs can include such elements as security, guidance, reliability, trust, and nurturance. When children grow up not feeling safe in their environment or not feeling like they can trust their guardians to provide for them, they can develop attachment issues in adulthood.

A child's hand holding the finger of an adult hand.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

Because of this, they tend to aim for security in relationships over genuine connection and compatibility, setting up a ‘victim/rescuer’ type of dynamic that’s rife with imbalance and tension.

To Be Saved

The one who experienced trauma isn’t always the ‘victim’ role in these dynamics. Instead of chasing safety, sometimes they desire to be the source of consistent security they lacked as a child for someone else. They’re drawn to partners they believe they can ‘fix’ or ‘save’, becoming a touch controlling in their desire to be a constant fixture in their significant other’s life.

A couple sitting on a set of steps, the woman leaning forward and hiding her face in her arms.
Pexels / Odonata Wellnesscenter
Pexels / Odonata Wellnesscenter

Other ways a lack of safety needs being met in childhood can manifest are thought patterns relating to not being ‘good enough’ or being convinced that they will always be abandoned.


To have autonomy is to have control over one’s own body and self. We are autonomous when we act upon our own thoughts, morals, beliefs, and desires, and to remove autonomy from someone else would be to make them follow the commands of someone else, or to not allow them to act on their own.

A woman sitting on the edge of a bathtub.
Pexels / Yaroslav Shuraev
Pexels / Yaroslav Shuraev

Children need their own independence, but some parents are so strict to the point of not allowing their kids to think for themselves. This can lead to a lack of trust in one’s self as they grow older.

In The Deep End

Growing up with a lack of autonomy can end with someone not knowing how to take care of themselves in adulthood. They were never given the independence needed to learn the necessary skills to be self-sufficient. They can also lack a perception of self or personal identity and feel the need to always turn to others for the ‘right’ answer to things.

Someone facing away from the camera, hands up cradling their head, showing bare tattooed arms. A camera effect has a ghostly second image of the same person in a slightly different position overlaying the first.
Pexels / Anna Shvets
Pexels / Anna Shvets

In relationships, these people engage in a lot of people-pleasing behavior as a means of receiving external validation, always wanting to be told they’re doing well or doing things the correct way. They also might seem clingy or overly attached as they don’t believe they can make decisions or even stand up for themselves.


A lack of love is perhaps the broadest but easiest to understand need that some children have been deprived of. To lack love can mean to lack support, affection, empathy, or care from those meant to provide those things. In many forms of abuse from guardians, it will leave those abused lacking one or more of those forms of love.

A child sitting in a doorway, hands to her face in distress.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

Because it’s such a wide subject, it can show itself later in life in many different ways. A common one is a constant desire to be in a romantic relationship so as not to feel without love for another period of your life, even if it means partnering with someone who’s otherwise not a good lover.

Mixed Signals

It can also lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of what love is. This can cause confusion around intimacy, sex, friendship, codependency, and abuse. If someone is unable to define what love is for them, it’s easy to get it mixed up with any of those other elements.

A torso shot of a couple where the man is gripping the woman's arm.
Pexels / Alex Green
Pexels / Alex Green

A lack of love can result in long-term struggles with depression, substance abuse, risky encounters, and poor self-esteem. It can change not only how someone behaves in romantic relationships but completely alter their perception of what a romantic relationship even is.

In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.

A Better Future

If you or someone you love struggles with any of the above, there is hope to be had. Healing is possible. There are plenty of types of therapy, counseling, and other practices that can help a victim of neglect or abuse work through their struggles, both current and ones attached to childhood. These practices can teach coping mechanisms, instill healthier thought patterns, and build a path forward through the current torments that can feel all-encompassing.

A woman smiling as she looks up towards a tree sprouting yellow flower blossoms.
Pexels / Valeriia Miller
Pexels / Valeriia Miller

Children who faced trauma of any kind did nothing to deserve it and should never have had to experience it in the first place, but those children making it to adulthood at all is a show of sheer strength, strength that can be used to heal those wounds.

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]