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Family Dynamics & Hypercritical Behavior

By Jaime Vargas-Benitez ; Updated June 13, 2017

Children are influenced by the family dynamics in which they are raised. When a child grows up in an overly critical environment it can have a damaging effect on their psyche. Overly critical parents may feel like they are just driving their children to do their best, but in reality critical behavior leads to a negative family dynamic. It has an effect on everything from a child's creativity level to her self-esteem. There are many ways to encourage a child to do her best without being overly critical. Parents should look for positive, uplifting ways to encourage a healthy family.


Parents today find higher social status in children's success. This creates a family dynamic in which the child is expected to perform at unrealistic levels. Psychology Today outlines the issues that come along with seeking perfectionism. The article, "Pitfalls of Perfectionism," says that perfectionism decreases creativity, innovation, and a child's desire to take risks. A child who is raised with overly critical parents is afraid to fail and disappoint her parents. According to Psychology Today, the unattainable expectations put on a child by overly critical parents serves only to increase her negative inner dialogue.


A small amount of anxiety in a child is normal. When a child experiences amounts of anxiety that begin to inhibit his life, that indicates a problem. According to the site Children with Anxiety, a child needs a loving, calming environment when dealing with anxiety issues. Overly critical parents only serve to increase the stress and anxiety within a child. The site says a child can develop depression, or even mental illness if anxiety issues are not dealt with in a healthy manner. A child who has anxiety issues needs parental guidance that does not include stressful criticism, and second-guessing of every move he makes. Children with Anxiety points out that dealing with anxiety is a family issue, not just the child's issue.

Unconditional Love

Hypercritical parenting can result in a child feeling she has to earn her parents' love. Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin, psychotherapist, says a child with overly critical parents grows up feeling she has to achieve enough in order to earn the love of her parents. Due to the negative nature of a critical family environment, the child feels she does not receive unconditional love. Sorotzkin explains, in a healthy home a child knows they are loved, even when they do not meet her parents' standards. She knows love is not tied to achievement. In hypercritical households, a child grows up feeling parental love is something that is dangling like a carrot on a string, and until she does enough to earn it, she is not loved. Sorotzkin says this leads to later issues with self-esteem, negative parental relationships and perfectionism.


Children develop self-esteem as they grow and learn to value themselves. According to Kids Health, a child who lives in an overly critical environment internalizes the critical dialogue she hears from her parents. This lowers self-esteem and can lead to depression, says Kids Health. The children's health site advises parents to be supportive and nurturing with children. A child who learns to love and accept herself even when she fails, will develop healthy self-esteem. A child needs to see from her parents that even when she is not perfect, she is worthy and loved. This will help her believe in herself and increase her self-esteem.

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