How Does Childhood Affect Adulthood? What Path Did You Take To Become The Person You Are Today?


If you have seen movies like “Silence of the lambs” you will be familiar with the thought pattern of serial killers being abused in their childhood therefore making them disturbed adults. As you became more and more familiar with this thought pattern you may have even wondered to yourself how does childhood affect adulthood more generally. What things happened in your past to turn you into the kind of adult you are today? Therapists will go through the motions with you but if you want to make any real progress in your self-examination you will need to put in the hard yards yourself. Here are a few directions you may consider taking.

The Brain does strange things and I bet you never even take notice

There has been a lot of work go into understanding the human brain. You may still think the same way we did decadesmemories affect adulthood ago “the human brain is a mystery and no one knows anything about it”, and you would be wrong.

The brain works records two types of long term memories; implicit memories and explicit memories.

Implicit memories are the unconscious memories that shape the way you do things and feel things. This type of memory is how you built up a mental model of the world and it doesn’t need active participation from you. Here are a few examples to better illustrate what implicit memories are

  1. you look up see the sky is a dark Grey color and immediately turn around to get your umbrella. (your implicit memory has kicked in and assumed there is a good chance it will rain and you need an umbrella)
  2. you are walking you dog and you see a bull dog coming towards you unrestrained; you immediately look for ways to protect yourself (your implicit memory may be recalling a past dog attack or something which assumes this dog is going to be dangerous)
  3. you are a female that wants to date a man who is taller than her (your implicit memory has drawn on something from your past and decided that you would be better off with a taller man; perhaps you want the same protection your dad used to provide you and you are associated a tall man today with the way your dad used to tower over you as a kid.)

I could keep going on forever but the key point is to pull yourself up when you automatically do something, feel something or want something and see if you can figure out what drove your implicit memory to go in that direction.

The implicit memory leads to something clinical psychologists refer to as the “illusion of truth effect”. You are more likely to think something is true if you have heard it before. This is because the brain may unconsciously recollect a familiarity with something that you have heard over and over again (but don’t actively remember ever hearing) and for some reason pays it more credibility just because it is familiar.

The advertising industry will bring me down if you tell them we are onto their scams.

Implicit memory is often referred to as procedural memory because it unconsciously dictates the way in which you do things.

Explicit memories are concrete memories of things you directly remember happening to you. A few examples are

  1. As you are preparing to go out in the sun you directly remember the time you on a beach holiday a few years back and getting very painfully sunburned
  2. As you prepare for another big night on the turps (drinking) you recall the hangover that crippled you for a whole day a few weeks back.

These memories are autobiographical. They include you, the time, the place and very much live in your conscious thought. Explicit memories are referred to as declarative memories because they are a set declaration of personal experiences or facts.illusion of truth

The way your brain response to your every day is extremely important when you are a child because of the way the brain develops. Here are a few key points to set the scene.

  • Your memories are embedded into the brain by creating neuropathways (these are the roads that the neurons travel through). The shape of the roads and the size/strength (the neuropathways) store the content, context, complexity and relevance of each memory.
  • You are born with your brain pretty much physically developed (around 80%) but it’s almost a blank canvas for you to start building your mental model on (there are certain parts of your consciousness automatically brought into life with you)
  • since the brain does the bulk of it’s developing during childhood the bulk of your mental model of the world is developed during childhood.



Paradigm is a big word but it is a simple concept. Our brain works more efficiently by only remembering or focusing a very small part of everything that has ever happened. What it chooses to remember shapes the way you see the world today. Your mental model is built up from all the implicit and explicit memories from your past.

The way your apply this mental model to the world is the paradigm through which your see your life (or in other words the lens through which you see the world, it filters out all the stuff you don’t want to see and focus’s you onto something)

Our brain also has an ability to focus on painful memories or emotions and if exposed to them long enough can erase those memories all together; block them out. This is where you unconscious actions (from your implicit memories) can tie you up in knots and make a right mess of your life with out you knowing what is going on.

Example 1 Being on time for something

If your mental model of the world includes memories of your mother always being late and you feel let down by her lateness you may create a paradigm in which you much be early to all of your appointments so as to not let anyone else down.

Example 2 The Role of the Mother and the Role of the Father

Say for example your mental model from childhood has your mother placed as a full time working mother and your father as a full time working father. When you grow up and have you own children you may create a paradigm in which you feel obliged to work full time just to live up to your own standards of a mother or fathers role in life.

Example 3 Alcoholism

In this example you grow up with a father and mother who both drink bottle of wine everyday and their life revolves around making time at the end of the day to get drunk enough to sleep. As you grow up you may subconsciously associate adulthood with the ability to sit down every night and drink a bottle of wine. Your paradigm here is there you need to drink to feel more grown up.

Hopefully these few examples can show you how your brain functions, your mental model as a child and your paradigms as an adult really do shape your reality today.

Personal Growth is very achievable

Just by taking the time to read this article and think about your own existence you have already achieved the start your personal growth journey. Understanding your paradigms will make you a more whole person and a better parent.

If you make a conscious effort to turn your implicit memories to explicit memories (which can be done) a new mental model can be created, new neuropathways can be create and your paradigms can be changed.

Let me know some of the self reflections you have made and which paradigms of your own you have discovered.

Here are a few to get you started

  • I need to be a successful businessman to keep my wife interested in me
  • my wife wants me to be both a full time caregiver and a full time breadwinner
  • Our kids need their own bedrooms each and we need spare bedrooms for guests

Followup Article Link: MidLife Crisis and Unreal Expectations.  Click here.




12 Replies to “How Does Childhood Affect Adulthood? What Path Did You Take To Become The Person You Are Today?”

  1. Great read! Our childhood memories have an direct correlations to our belief systems which shapes us for our whole lives.
    It hard to break these systems but totally doable. A great read is Mastin Kipp – Claim your power which shows how to get through these ingrained models.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Wouldn’t it have been great if someone sat us down at the age of 15 and made sure we had a distict break between childhood and adulthood. Clear out all the excess baggage and start fresh.
      I spent 2 days this week in a workshop with some aboriginal elders. Their culture is thousands of years old and light years ahead of ours.

  2. I definitely believe that childhood experiences shape us as adults. I have very vivid memories of things from my childhood that effect me to this day. My parents fought a lot when I was a kid, so I have made that a priority in my life, to have a much better relationship with my wife. My father drank a lot when I was a kid, which ultimately lead to the fighting, and I made choices not to follow that path. I also have some of my father’s tendencies in other areas, and I have tried to recognize those, both good and bad, and make adjustments. So yes, our childhood certainly has an effect on our adult lives. Thanks for sharing this post, it made me think!

    1. I hope you didn’t have to dredge up too many bad memories from your past Steve.
      What really saddens me are these people who are still trapped now by events that happened 60 years ago.
      Let go of it people. You are the only one holding onto it now.

  3. Paradigms are indeed deep-rooted and very difficult to change. It is said that paradigms can only be changed through two ways. One, a huge and heavy emotional impact, like maybe losing your job. Two, the constant repetition of an idea. That’s where affirmations come in. What do you think? Are there other ways in which we can change a deep-rooted belief?

    1. I think it can be done but very few of us volunteer for such a huge workload to destroy your ego. Usually a life changing event in life such as a death or a divorce is your best chance but again you have to be educated well enough to recognise it as an opportunity.
      You still need to make an effort, unfortunately something most people are not cut out for these days.

  4. Awesome Post! I agree that it is kind of our own prerogative whether or not we grow and move on from our childhood tremors. It’s essential to learn from them, and be an example to the next generation. I came from a line of smokers, so naturally I smoked as well, but at 23 I quit for good! 🙂

    1. Congratulations on giving up smoking Jarod. I like the term childhood tremors. so true.

      wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could grow out of their victimhood persona and stand on their own two feet.

  5. Reading this article, I am captivated. We may not realise but come to think about it, our upbringing does affect adulthood. Either we follow the pattern or against.

    My parents were divorced when I was a child. Most times, my brother and I were left alone at home. I was always the loner, shy and timid. Growing up, suffer from inferiority complex.

    Now, being a parent, I make sure to be there for my children and do my utmost best to maintain this healthy family of mine.

    Thanks, Remy. I have a good read.

    1. No worries sharon.

      A lot of parents who did have a not so great childhood carry their coping mechanisms into the adulthood and tend to overcompensate with certain aspects of their parenting.  

      Here is an example.  someone who grows up with a very submissive mother will tend to be dominant to compensate in children but then carry the dominance into adulthood and from there it can go either day.  The dominant feature of their psyche can grow into something a lot worse if their spouse is also submissive or alternative if the spouse is even more dominant they can go right down the other end of the spectrum and turn into a submissive partner.  Either way your past has very distinct influence on your personality that you carry with you.  Glad you stopped by.

  6. Very much enjoyed reading your article. I was recently told by a numerologist that I needed to break away or deal with something to do with my mother. I thought of that right away when reading. The things we carry forward from our parents subconsciously can be a very real problem in some cases.
    Even your reference to Alcoholism hit home. My EX husband came from two alcoholic parents and it did very much carry on with him.
    Thanks for the good read!

    1. glad to be of assistance christine and thanks for stopping by.  Once you make the connection and acknowledge the possibilities the subconscious can be put front of mind and next thing you know you will be unlocking all those hidden parts of your psyche that make up your personality without you even knowing it.

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