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, verbally, 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 in particular 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. 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; they may even pass down their newfound betterment to their own children. Troubling Unchildlike Behavior is often a tell-tale sign that things are not right at home.
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 ways cases, the parent's abuse occasionally drives the offspring to snap, commit Revenge and finally kill them, thus becoming a Self-Made Orphan. Although other times, the parents end up as a Karma Houdini. Calling the Old Man Out occurs when a fed-up child retaliates with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. If the child gets out of the broken family and forms healthy friendships, but reacts badly when their abusive parents show up again, well, Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't.
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 in 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 name-calling? There's a line here somewhere, but not everyone agrees on where it is.note
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 (where others abuse the children and the parents abuse the abusers), Papa Wolf (same), the more extreme variant of Knight Templar Parent (where the abusive parent is violently overprotective) and Abusive Offspring (where the children are abusive to their 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. Black Comedy is often connected in the comedic aspect of it, and a Big, Screwed-Up Family may be involved if it is adult comedy. 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. Abusive-type parents are mostly wanted criminals being chased by the law. For grandparents who abuse their grandchildren, see Gruesome Grandparent.
While they do not have to be the child's actual, technical parents to be part of this trope, they must be 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.
As in Real Life, this trope can make a child Hate Their Parent.
When the abused child in question grows up and starts their own family, they will sometimes bow not to make the same mistakes their parents did with them and will try to treat their own children better with the hopes of Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting.
The polar opposite, of course, is Good Parents. Also not to be confused with Teasing Parent, who plays harmless jokes on their kids without intending to hurt them.
Unfortunately, Abusive Parents are Truth in Television and a very sensitive topic for many, so No Real Life Examples, Please! - It is sufficient to say they do exist and that they are also Too Common.
Note: Please do not use this trope for complaining about parents you don't like.
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- "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship": The fool's parents are verbally abusive to the fool, not being supportive of him when he wanted to go out and build a flying ship. They also only gave him scraps of food for his journey instead of the lovely meal they gave to his two brothers.
- "Morozko": The old woman constantly berates her stepdaughter, to the point that the poor child cries every night, and in the beginning of the tale the old woman attempts to get her killed.
- "Maid Maleen": The titular princess refuses to go through with an arranged marriage, so her father tries to "break her spirit" by locking her away in a tower for seven years.
- "Hans the Hedgehog": Hans' father regrets having wished for his half-urchin son to be born and literally wishes him dead. He is all too happy when Hans leaves home on his own initiative, and he does not even care when Hans returns with a big herd of pigs to feed the village with. He only starts caring when Hans returns again, now fully human and married to a princess.
- "Mother Holle": The main character's stepmother forces her to work until her hands are bleeding. In the Erstwhile version, it is seen that the woman dotes on her biological daughter as long as she obeys orders and does not talk back.
- "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun": In Arthur Ransome's version, Prince Ivan's parents cared little for his mute son, whose "dumbness" they were constantly moaning about, so it should not come as a surprise that Ivan "spent all his time in the stables, listening to the tales of an old groom".
- There's a whole line of short "Mommy Mommy" jokes that are popular:
"Mommy-mommy, why do I keep walking in circles?"
"Shut up dear, or I'll nail your other foot to the floor."
"Mommy-mommy, why is Daddy running back and forth across the field?"
"Shut up and reload, dear."
"Mommy-mommy, why can't Daddy have a proper burial?
"Shut up and keep flushing, dear."
"Mommy-mommy, Grandma has a huge mole on her leg!"
"Shut up and eat around it, dear."
- A mother is making jam in the kitchen, and her legless son plays in the other room. He calls for her to bring him some jam, and she answers that he can easily walk to the kitchen. "But I have no legs..." "No legs, no jam!"
- This joke is also told in the "No arms, no cartoons" variety.
- Classical Mythology is full of child abuse.
- Ouranos and Cronos both made a practice of imprisoning their children at birth: Ouranos threw them in Tartarus, while Cronos swallowed them whole.
- Greek mortals abuse their children just as often in myth. For example, Echetus gouged out his daughter's eyes, chained her in a cellar, and made her grind iron chunks to dust. Acrisius locked his daughter Danae in solitary confinement to prevent her from having children, and then threw her in a box and dumped her in the sea when she got pregnant from Zeus. Mythical women suffer various physical punishments and sometimes death for getting pregnant out of wedlock, even when they were raped. Beating kids barely even gets mentioned in Classical Greece, except when someone like comedian Aristophanes mocks moral relativists by depicting them as opposed to beating them.
- When Hephaestus was born, his mother Hera tossed him off a cliff because she thought he was too ugly. (He survived.)
- Kullervo in The Kalevala is abused so badly he becomes an Omnicidal Maniac and kills himself. At the end of the canto, Väinämöinen especially warns of abusing children, stating that "a boy abused will never have the mind of a man".
- In In Strange Woods, Howl's father was emotionally and physically abusive to him, and he grew up in a house without love.
- Before awareness campaigns of the 1980s, a child "physical abuse"-type promo was often played for laughs. More common with regional promotions that had their own syndicated TV programs, a heel wrestler or tag team would seriously and in a normal but concerned tone of voice deliver a promo recounting a supposed meeting with a sad-eyed boy or girl, who is crying because (s)he can no longer take his/her father's physical abuse, the wrestler then asking the child if he'd go live with his/her mother to which the boy claims she beats him/her also, then asking who he'd like to live with, to which the kid says, "I wanna go live with (whatever face wrestler/tag team said heels are currently feuding)... because he/they don't beat nobody!" ...with the heel wrestler's demeanor suddenly turning from somber to mocking as he delivers the punch line.
- Vince McMahon often acted this way toward his son Shane McMahon, daughter Stephanie McMahon, and his out-of-wedlock "son" Hornswoggle in angles.
- When Shane returned to RAW on February 22, 2016, people at the stadium heard something that was censored from the TV broadcast.
Vincent: (Into the mic) Good, because I have one last opportunity- (further away, but still audible via mic) to give you a fucking beating.
- When Shane returned to RAW on February 22, 2016, people at the stadium heard something that was censored from the TV broadcast.
- Raven claimed that both of his parents beat the crap out of him. CM Punk also said he had issues with his dad, and that he was going to beat Raven because he saw his father in Raven. Some cycle there, huh?
- Toward the end of 2005, Raw wrestler Shelton Benjamin began losing most of his matches. It wasn't long before his overbearing "Momma" (actually actress Thea Vidale in "granny" glasses and a muumuu) showed up on television to reprimand him, threatening to beat him (just as she supposedly did when he was a boy) if he didn't start winning matches. Benjamin began cheating to win or allowing Momma Benjamin to cheat for him, thus turning heel.
- Cheerleader Melissa would joke about how her rival, "Sweet" Saraya, would treat her kids and declared she was going to beat Britani Kight in her mother's steed when they met in SHIMMER.
- During his early hype vignettes, Bray Wyatt said his daddy was a mean man who made him work on his shrimping boat instead of going to school. Bray set fire to his dad's boat - and implied that his dad died in that fire.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Mrs. Miller forced all her expectations onto Jacob, which eventually developed into her emotionally abusing him if he didn't match up to her standards. His obsession with routine is his way of coping with it.
- Benedict's father micromanages his life, expecting him to get the best possible grades so that he can inherit the family legacy. Even worse, he's blatantly homophobic, going so far as to hurl slurs at his son. As a result, Benedict has become haughty and stand-offish in order to conceal his issues of self-worth.
- Daigo's father and stepmother physically abused him, outed him as bisexual, and frequently mocked his Japanese heritage. This only stopped when his stepmother passed away, and his father grew too frail to hurt him anymore- which, in turn, led to Daigo exacting his revenge against the old man.
- Emmanuel's lack of self-esteem and self-control are a result of his mother, who verbally abuses him about being overweight. Even after he gained a super metabolism and slimmed down, she still tore into him when she found him eating cookies.
- Fairly common as a backstory for characters in Survival of the Fittest, in that there are at least several examples per version. It was particularly common in v1 and v2, and while it isn't as common in later versions they still pop up. V2's Mariavel Varella is one such example, having been abused physically (and in a retconned thread, sexually) by her father, who also killed her brother.
- In Touhou: a Glimmer of an Outside World, Marisa's father. Amongst other things, he threw her out — despite Marisa's being sixteen or seventeen at the most — and hit her when she tried to get back in.
- Ars Magica has it come up both in a blood-relation manner and a mentor-student manner. The Gift causes people to feel a great sense of discomfort around magi, and those children born with the Gift frequently find themselves on the wrong end of their parents's irritation. As for master-student, the Code that magi follow allows all sorts of nastiness done to apprentices, up to and including murder. Even passing the Apprentice's Gauntlet and becoming a full-fledged magus might not be enough to escape this; the Flaw "Tormenting Master" indicates that once per year, your parens clears two weeks out of their schedule and spends them trying to break your life to pieces. (Because House Tytalus is built around interpersonal conflict, most Tytalus magi might as well put this Flaw on their character sheet before they even start spending points.)
- Ability No. X: When Ayame manifested her ability to hear the flowers, her parents frequently abused her because they wanted to cover it up. This made Ayame resentful of her ability and the flowers and she began to hurt them.
- ACTUALLY HAPPENED: In the video I Failed To Save My Girl From Her Father, a boy learns that his girlfriend's father is the abusive ex of his aunt. He notices that both his girlfriend Emma and her mother show signs of being abused. When the boy mentions his worries to Emma, she gets angry at him for accusing her dad. The two end up breaking up.
- ETU - Animated Stories: Many stories feature neglectful or downright abusive parents. Some of them are very petty.
- Milton's parents gave him a poor education and actively sabotage his efforts to be successful just because he wasn't born a girl. Although later in turned out they weren't his real parents.
- Another story had the protagonist being locked away for years by her mother because she was "too pretty". Though the mother's boyfriend broke her out and escaped with her.
- Happy Tree Friends: Pop usually gets his son Cub killed or injured due to obliviousness, but he's lapsed into this tertiary on a few occasions, including whenever he tries to be a Papa Wolf. For instance, hammering a nail into Cub's face to hide it, yanking him out of a kitchen sink by tying a rope around his neck and car, intentionally breaking off his spine, etc. He killed Cub on purpose once even, in a last-ditch effort to finish off a demon inside him (which unknown to him, had already been liberated by then). One early draft of an episode even had Pop intentionally setting Cub's dead body on fire to dispose of his corspe.
- In Alfred's Playhouse, Alfred's parents were very neglectful of him and tried to drown him in the bathtub; he is the result of an unsuccessful abortion. His abuse is the reason why he's so crazy.
- Many of the parents seen in "Grounded" GoAnimate videos will ground their kids for insanely long periods of time at the slightest provocation. Starting crying over scary dreams? Grounded for "Triple Infinity" because you aren't allowed to have nightmares. Accidentally left the faucet running at school? Not only do you get expelled, but you also get grounded just because your parents love you so much. In a few instances, they'll even celebrate sending the kid to their room by throwing parties or going out to Chuck E. Cheese's without them.
- Hommer Simpson: Hommer is responsible for the death of his daughter Maggie, but is also shown to be repeatedly rude and abusive to Bart and (especially) Lissa.
- My Pride: Powerstrike is a female example of this. She names her disabled daughter Nothing, then tells her that she only sees wasted potential when she looks at her. Though it is downplayed with her other daughter, Farleap, who says that she spent all of her life trying to impress her mother.
- My Story Animated: Carol and Lana's father from "I Found My Missing Sister In A Graveyard" allows his second wife to torment her stepdaughters and gets physically abusive with Carol.
- In Nameless (2005), it's heavily implied that Miller's mom molested him, which could be the reason why he's so screwed up.
- OverSimplified: A frequent issue among a number of world leaders:
- The fathers of Stalin and Hitler were abusive drunks who physically assaulted their children. The "This enraged his father, who punished him severely" meme associated with the channel comes from that phrase being used to the point of Running Gag in the Hitler video.
- Alexander III was verbally abusive as well as neglectful to his son, the future Nicholas II, calling him a "girly girl" and refusing to actually teach him how to be a ruler until just before his death.
- Rock 'n' Roll Dad: Murry Wilson likes hurting his son Brian's feelings.
- From the start of the series, Weiss Schnee heavily implies that Jacques, her father was abusive towards her and possibly her sister while they were growing up. He received a lot of stress from dealing with the White Fang's terrorist acts against the Schnee Dust Company, so he often would come home from work in a less than pleasant mood. Once we see him in Volume 4, he's revealed to be a merciless sociopath who only cares about the family name - which he, in fact, married into and took for himself - and has no qualms about disinheriting Weiss for disobeying him one too many times.
- There's also Mercury, whose father is all but stated to be an alcoholic who regularly beat him and is the reason he lost his legs, but not for the reason you'd think. Then comes Lost where it turns out the abuse was even worse. Marcus specifically trained Mercury to be a killer and once he unlocked his Semblance, Marcus used his own to take it, saying he'd give it back when Mercury was strong and referring to it as a crutch. Long story short, Mercury didnít regain it, and probably never will.
- Cinder was essentially Made a Slave by their adoptive mother, who forced them to act as child labor in her upper-class hotel, and was made to wear a Shock Collar that was triggered whenever Cinder was disobedient, or simply made a mistake.
- Nora reveals in private to Ren that her mother was a Dirty Coward who abandoned Nora during a Grimm attack to try and save her own life, which is how she ended up a Street Urchin in Kuroyuri.
- Story Booth: Due to the topics revolving around the horrors of daily life, plenty of stories will involve this. Here are a few examples:
- "Mean Mom" revolves around Sydney's mother constantly bullying and beating up her own daughter for not being good enough. This results in Sydney going through severe depression, even inflicting self-harm due to her mother's bullying.
- "16 and Pregnant" has Poppy's parents disowning her once they figure out she was pregnant with Aiden's child. The kicker is that Aiden extorted her into having sex with him, but the parents clearly couldn't care less.
- "My 'Perfect' Dad Wasn't Who I Thought He Was" centers on Zion, whose father forced her to view pornography and violent content, made her sit in the bathtub with her brother, and even physically assaulted her on one occasion. After Zion's mother confronts him for his behavior, he blackmails her by threatening to take her children away. Once doctors became suspicious about the family's mental health, they called 911 and had him arrested.
- The titular Salad Fingers has his "family" introduced in episode 11 as a Big Brother Bully and an unpleasant matriarch who lives in mirrors and reflections. While it is unknown whether or not the Glass Mother is in any way his actual mother, she is verbally abusive and gets him to poison himself. His father is not any better, going by her final words before Salad Fingers seals the last of her away in a box after breaking the mirror.