Patriarchal Upbringing in the 21st Century: The Impact Emotional Abuse Related to Parental Styles Has on the Genesis of Gender Inequality and the Development of Unresolved Trauma in Children

Psychiatr Danub. 2021 Dec;33(Suppl 11):121-132.


Background: Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) (physical, sexual, and psychological/emotional) is a type of structural discrimination that violates the basic human rights of females on a global scale. Cultural norms that glorify male dominance, power imbalances, and abuse of authority are the most encountered reasons for VAWG. Emotional abuse, which can start in childhood, is widely recognised as the most prevalent form of VAWG. However, although victims of emotional abuse usually suffer terribly, perpetrators often evade accountability. Emotional abuse is underestimated in part because it is normalized by victims who are mostly women and girls. The normalization of VAWG is contributing to the propagation and perpetuation of biased perceptions of sexism. The intergenerational transmission of parenting styles - which is an important contributory factor for child development - often includes gender-stereotyping norms, or patriarchy. Hitherto, limited focus has been directed towards the consequences that emotional abuse related to patriarchal upbringing has on children. Aim - to investigate if emotional abuse related to patriarchal upbringing influences the perception of sexism and gender stereotyping across genders, and the development of unresolved trauma in children.

Methods: Participants were recruited via social media platforms to complete online questionnaires assessing parental emotional abuse, control, trauma, misogyny, and perceptions of sexism. Parametric analyses were conducted on the 188 participants (158 women and 30 men) recruited. Trauma and perceptions of sexism were statistically analysed using correlation and multiple linear regression.

Results: Our findings show that parental emotional abuse and control in females predicted for unresolved traumatic experiences (16.6%). Misogynistic culture and male gender predicted for hostile sexism (9.9%), whereas emotional abuse predicted for benevolent sexism (40%).

Conclusion: Emotional abuse related to patriarchal upbringing contributes to the genesis of gender inequality and unresolved trauma in children. Given that parental styles are transmitted from one generation to the next, to reduce sexism and improve mental health outcomes, the patriarchal parental cycle must be broken.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Emotional Abuse*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Sexism