"Why you little—!"
"I haven't smiled once since the day you were born.
Parents are supposed to be the protectors of children, but these parents are either so damaged themselves that they can't do the job, greedy or villainous to the point that they never had any interest in doing the job properly, or would rather use the child as a means to an end. Sometimes they're just sadistic assholes.
This includes parents who are emotionally, physically, or mentally abusive, or who neglectfully allow their children to be abused by others if they don't abuse the child themselves; sexual abuse is typically treated as a special kind of evil
. Sometimes, the abuse at the hands of their parents becomes a Freudian Excuse
for a villain (or worse, generates a villain who has Mommy Issues
). Other times, the character manages to not grow up broken, bitter, and hateful
, and instead a different and better person
than the upbringing would incline one to think.
Abusive Parents are commonplace in fairy tales
and Classical Mythology
which makes this trope Older Than Feudalism
. Note that The Brothers Grimm
, when they collected European fairy tales, were uncomfortable with the idea of Abusive Parents and so frequently changed the Abusive Parents in the traditional stories into abusive step parents
Sometimes, a parent will go as far as to kill the child in question, in which case this is Offing the Offspring
. In other cases, the parent's abuse occasionally drives the offspring to snap
, commit Revenge and finally kill them
, thus becoming a Self-Made Orphan
. Calling the Old Man Out
occurs when a fed-up child retaliates with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech
Bear in mind that not everyone agrees on the line between actual abuse and merely heavy-handed parenting
(or even normal
parenting). Is Moving the Goalposts
merely inspiring the child to achieve more, or the most insidious form of abuse to instill mistrust and paranoia to the children? Some include spanking as abuse; others think it's appropriate given certain guidelines. Some believe it's okay to make a kid go without a meal (they won't starve that easily); others disagree. Making a kid miss a friend's birthday sleepover — is that emotional
abuse? Raising a kid without exposure to TV? Telling your daughter she's getting fat? A little friendly name-calling? There's a line here somewhere, but not everyone agrees on where it is.
If a parent has just dumped the child, for whatever reason, that's Parental Abandonment
; if they aren't paying attention, that's Parental Neglect
. If the parents refuse to discipline their kids, they are Pushover Parents
. Contrast Mama Bear
or Papa Wolf
abuse the children and the parents abuse the abusers). Also Contrast Good Parents
. Abusive Precursors
can be considered this on a metaphorical level. See Hilariously Abusive Childhood
for when this is cranked up to absurd levels
and played for laughs. In keeping with the above note, some may call the show on it and say Dude, Not Funny!
. See Evil Matriarch
and Archnemesis Dad
for characters who are beyond abusive
and outright evil
. For parents who are mostly abused by their children, see Pushover Parents
While they do not have to be the child's actual, technical parents to be part of this trope, it's pretty important that they are closely related and live together, like a Wicked Stepmother
or an Evil Uncle
taking care of the Parentally Deprived. After all, it's much
more disgusting that somebody related to the child could bring themselves to hurt them, rather than a mere foster family.
Please do not use this trope for complaining about parents you don't like.
Unfortunately, Abusive Parents are Truth in Television
and a very sensitive topic for many, so please no Real Life
examples - it is sufficient to say they do exist and they are all too common. It is horrible that children suffer cruelties at the hands of those who are supposed to be the most loving and trustworthy figures in their lives, and the damage can take years to undo, even with competent assistance (if it can be undone at all - often, the emotional scars will stay forever). If you are concerned this may describe you or someone you love, please take it very seriously. See this help guide
for some Real Life
information and organizations to contact. Also, Chiworld
has an international list of hotlines and websites you can contact if you need to discuss abuse or other issues in your life. You Are Not Alone