Children who feel they cannot engage their parents emotionally often try to strengthen their connection by playing whatever roles they believe their parents want them to. Although this may win them some fleeting approval, it doesn’t yield genuine emotional closeness. Emotionally disconnected parents don’t suddenly develop a capacity for empathy just because a child does something to please them.
People who lacked emotional engagement in childhood, men and women alike, often can’t believe that someone would want to have a relationship with them just because of who they are. They believe that if they want closeness, they must play a role that always puts the other person first.
— Lindsay C. Gibbon, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents (2015)