Effects of Habitual Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior can be exhibited by men or women and can begin at a very early age. Often when someone exhibits passive-aggressive behavior as a child, it is because one or both parents were also passive-aggressive and/or there was a rule in the family that anger was not allowed to be expressed directly. Either way, the child grows up developing a communication style that is unhealthy. This is exhibited by a child having difficulty making and maintaining friendships, as their peers react very negatively to the ambiguous, blaming and sulking nature of the passive-aggressive child. Adults who are passive-aggressive have similar issues in making and maintain friendships. People who habitually use a passive-aggressive communication style for their anger and resentment are unable to keep close relationships with others. Their friends become increasingly frustrated with the adult’s vagueness and inability to take responsibility for their own actions.

In addition, because passive-aggressive behaviors are used to maintain control and power, people who engage in such a communication style rarely have close, intimate relationships with their friends. They usually feel uncomfortable becoming closer than acquaintances. However, this sentiment is never expressed directly and the words the passive-aggressive uses might convey they feel very close to their friends but their actions definitely speak otherwise.

Most affected are their romantic relationships and the mental health of their children. In terms of relationships, their fear of intimacy and close relationships creates a distance in the marriage leaving their partner feeling isolated and lonely. Also, relationship problems are rarely handled in a positive, healthy manner as the passive-aggressive partner will be surprised that the other is unhappy and upset at the status of their relationship. The passive-aggressive spouse will also blame the other for the relationship issues, not accept any responsibility for their actions and in will make their partner feel bad for  asking for anything more.

Growing up with this kind of model can encourage children of a passive-aggressive parent to engage in that type of behavior as well. More importantly, the biggest detriment for the children of passive-aggressive parents is growing up never truly being able to trust what their parent is saying. Since passive-aggressive people are vague in their words but tend to act on their true feelings about a situation, their children often grow up confused by the mixed messages and often grow up experiencing a lot of anxiety. They also grow up having trust issues, having difficulty trusting many other people in their life. In addition, these children grow up to have difficulties in their marriage as they had a poor example of healthy communication between partners.

Needless to say, passive-aggression is not only detrimental for the person exhibiting the behavior, as it keeps their partners and friends at a distance so they never know a truly intimate relationship, but it also severely affects the health of their relationship and of their children.

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  1. I have been dealing with passive-aggressive people in my family most of my life. I think the article is a good overview. The key is that you cannot trust what these people say, and that is what is needed to have any kind of relationship. The advice I have been given is to not try to have a relationship with them because it will drive you crazy…..just “manage” them as best as you can.

  2. My husband is PA. Our 6 year old boy has caught onto it – caught him in lies, been the recipient of my husband’s ‘sighs,’ and has little respect for his father. He tells me sometimes that he wishes that we didn’t live with daddy. It’s sad, and I wish they were closer. The weirdest part is that my husband makes himself to be the victim and acts like our 6 year old is to blame… My husband’s mood changes constantly. He can be fun and wrestle around with the kids, then he will switch and be angry at us and withdraw from us – only focusing on our daughter. It becomes exhausting – strange strange behavior.

  3. I am the adult child of a passive aggressive mother. My father was a very down to earth, kind person, and thank God I had him to model behavior after and receive unconditional love. My mother tortured him emotionally in their last few years before his passing. Now that he is gone, I am the direct target. I have been through so much pain and emotional abuse from my mother that I finally just stopped speaking to her. I can’t have her in my life. And she won’t grant my request to stop contacting me – she has to drop bombs by mail or email every now and then. Breaking off with her has been horrible, made me very sad and effected my confidence with people. The bright spot is I am not the constant target of her anger and hysteria. I believe she would physically harm me if she could. Any other adult children suffering from a passive aggressive parent?

  4. My PA husband says in a very brash tone, “I cant give you what you want\need from me. Referring to showing me how he feels for me. Ive cried terribly while sharing with him the emptiness, and heartache Ive felt for over 20 years. He doesnt even react.

  5. My brother, hes 15, he blames everyone, my parents and distances himself from the family. Sometimes he is normal and does normal stuff but then he will go and do something like want two days off school and he will cry and blame my our parents for not loving him etc. on multiple times he has threatened to ‘bash’ or kill me. He also fails at school and blames teachers and the principal for not giving hi a fair go. Recently he says the principal is a witch and wont stop till he is expelled. It is strange. I have been looking at multiple disorders like personality disorders etc. He has ben diagnosed with ADHD

  6. I’m an adult child of a passive aggressive parent. Single parent family. I have an older brother.
    I’ve struggled for most of my life. I grew up thinking that I was the problem. My passive agressive mother always got me with guilt. She would deliberately goad me and then when I got angry she would say – see- you are out of control and angry. Same with getting upset. I would be told to stop my snivelling and go away. She would say I’m not talking to you until you calm down.
    Years of therapy later I can say – there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me.
    She’s so bloody hard to deal with. Like when I invite her to my wedding and she starts talking about herself.
    This website has helped me. The example of a conversation with a passive-agressive – so like what I’ve experienced – and shows the things that are said so that the person is the victim.
    Katrina Watson – your response struck a chord with me. You can’t have a normal relationship or a healthy relationship with a passive aggressive person. When I’ve tried it has just caused pain. The best you can do is ‘manage’ them like you said.
    I gave my mum the wedding invite. I didn’t respond to her victim thing. I just left. I cried and cried. About 4 weeks later she sent an email saying that she would come, but would leave if my brother became abusive.

    I still wanted sunshine and rainbows but that was the best she could manage.

    God bless my bridesmaid who will be there to help at the wedding.

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