More often than not we imagine a person with hoarding disorder to be an older individual, usually living alone. The grim reality is that there are situations in which a parent or parents are afflicted with hoarding behavior. Parental hoarding can have a seriously negative impact on children in a variety of different ways. These include:
- Poor hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Poor health
- Reduced socialization
- Mental and emotional health issues
- Learned behavior
Before digging deeper into the impact parental hoarding can have on children, the Mayo Clinic presents a useful overview of hoarding, hoarding behavior, and hoarding disorder:
Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.
Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually piled with stuff. And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles, yard and other storage facilities.
Hoarding ranges from mild to severe. In some cases, hoarding may not have much impact on your life, while in other cases it seriously affects your functioning on a daily basis.
People with hoarding disorder may not see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder understand how their beliefs and behaviors can be changed so that they can live safer, more enjoyable lives.
Children of parents who hoard are highly likely to have deficiencies when it comes to personal hygiene. Poor hygiene can become an issue with children of hoarders for a number of reasons:
- Hoarding parents fail to take appropriate care of children
- Hoarding parents don’t instruct their children on proper hygienic practices
- As hoarding progresses in a home, children may no longer have access to bathtubs, showers, or sinks, making it next to impossible if not impossible to appropriately groom themselves
Children with hoarding parents oftentimes have poor nutrition as well. Hoarding parents may be preoccupied with their hoard and not on top of things when it comes to preparing appropriate meals for their children. In addition, over time appliances will become unavailable or not working as a residence is consumed by hoarded items.
Ultimately, as a result of multiple factors, children of hoarding parents may begin to experience poor health. Indeed, over time these children may develop health conditions that can have long term effects on them.
Parents who hoard rather frequently face accusations of neglect. In some cases, hoarding parents objectively might be classified as being neglectful of their children. If a case is initiated against a hoarding parent, the consequences might be severe. A determination very well could be made by a court that the residence is not suitable for children.
There are also a considerable number of instanced in which an accusation of abuse is made against a hoarding parent. This might prove to be the case if hoarding has reached such a juncture that the home in which they live is deemed dangerous.
Children of parents who engage in hoarding behavior or who have been diagnosed with hoarding disorder also have a reduced change of healthy socialization with other children. They are unable to bring children home for playdates and the like at their own homes. In addition, their circumstances that arise for hoarding parents may make it difficult for them to participate in activities with other children away from their home as well.
Mental and Emotional Health Issues
Children of hoarding parents can also face the prospect of what might prove to be significant mental and emotional health issues. These can include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other issues. Indeed, in some instances, children of hoarding parents experience a traumatic existence sufficient enough that they can face PTSD even at later points in their lives.
Finally, children learn behavior from their parents. There can be instances in which children mimic the hoarding behavior of their parents that they witnessed growing up.
As an side, there is also evidence that there might be some sort of biological or genetic connection associated with hoarding disorder in some cases. A significant percentage of people who are diagnosed with hoarding disorder are found to have relatives with the same mental health condition. This includes individuals who had relatives who were not their parents who were diagnosed with hoarding disorder (meaning that a person in such a position would not engage in hoarding as some sort of learned behavior).