A father son codependent relationship crosses the lines between between being overly-engaged and overly-protective, and can be very damaging.

Codependency is a form of controlling another person and can have negative effects on childhood development. When people think of codependency they usually think of an abusive romantic relationship. However, a father-son codependent relationship crosses the lines between being overly-engaged and overly-protective and can be just as damaging.

What is Father and Son Codependency?

Codependent relationships are those that can be classified as “relationship addiction”. Father and son codependency occurs when one or both people are entirely dependent on the other for their emotional needs. This codependency can go both ways, as this type of behavior is usually learned from the parent and manifests in a similar manner within the child.

Since codependent children tend to lack a positive parental relationship they usually exhibit some of the characteristics shown below.

  • Need to always be in control
  • Low self-esteem
  • Overwhelming anxiety
  • Feeling of “never being good enough”
  • Fear of being alone
  • Problems with being intimate
  • Need to constantly please others

There are common relationship expectations that might foster these traits, including repression of feelings, a constant feeling of seeking perfection, striving to meet unrealistic expectations and trying to live up to the parent’s words, not their actions.

Warning Signs of a Codependent Parental Relationship

If you think you or a loved one might be involved in a codependent relationship, then keep reading for five common codependent relationship signs. Keep in mind that the warning signs below can go both ways between father and son.

1. The Parent Has a Victim Mentality

A victim mentality is used to guilt-trip the child into thinking that they’re the ones who will somehow fix all of the problems that have occurred in a parent’s life. Usually, this will show up as an intense pressure for the child to excel in areas the parent failed. For instance, a codependent father may demand their child excel in sports, so they can live vicariously through them.

2. The Parent is Always Right

In healthy relationships, one party isn’t always right. In a codependent relationship, the parent is always right. A codependent parent will always seek to be dominant and have ultimate authority over the child. No matter how good the child’s reasons for their actions.

3. The Parent is Always in Control and Manipulates the Child

Control is one of the main end goals for a codependent parent. Most codependent parents expect a very high amount of love and devotion from their children that is unhealthy and obsessive. Whenever the parent feels like they are losing control they will resort to a number of manipulation tactics to get their way. Often, the parent is trying to receive the love and affection they never received from their own parents.

4. The Parent Has Mood Swings

Expressing emotion in a relationship is very healthy. However, in a codependent relationship, the parent uses explosive emotion to control the child. If the parent feels like they are losing control they will resort to crying or yelling to manipulate the child into feeling bad.

The parent will also shift from one mood for another in order to guilt the child into taking the action they want them to take.

5. The Parent Never Listens

When talking to a codependent parent it will feel as if the child is talking to a brick wall. No matter how well thought out the argument, the parent will refuse to budge on their own position. The parent will avoid any conversational progress and instead change the topic of conversation entirely.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

When it comes to treating and healing a codependent father and son relationship there is no single form of treatment that’s right for every relationship. The first step is bringing awareness that you’re actually in a codependent relationship.

The treatment option you choose will depend upon the severity of the disorder. In some cases, group therapy will be effective, but in others, you’ll need to do separate individually tailored therapy to address each person.

Sadly, co-dependent father and son relationships are becoming more common. However, your relationship isn’t beyond repair if you get the correct treatment for your unique needs and goals.


Penser, William Ph.D. “When Love Bites – The Awkward Dance of Codependency.” (n.d.) Accessed March 12, 2019.

Duffy, Susie. “What is a Co-Dependent Parent?” (n.d.) Accessed March 12, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.