Sunday, July 3, 2022




Donald Trump and Jared Kushner
via AFP/Getty Images

Examining the personalities of dictatorships has become a priority for politicians and analysts. In her book For Your Own Good, psychologist Alice Miller examines the impact of childhood traumas on the personality of dictators. The individual level of analysis in foreign policy tackles the following question: How do early childhood and historical experiences shape the decisions of politicians while in office?  

While it is uncommon to draw a direct relationship between early childhood and the decisions taken by leaders, one can at least argue that this period of life affects the way of thinking and behaving of dictatorships. Given the length of the article, the author relies on assessing the impact of early childhood traumas on Trump’s personality.  

Donald Trump As a Child  

Trump’s decisions throughout the past four years were considered controversial. Some analysts have attributed the rise of Trump to the new wave of right-wing popular authoritarianism. However, little literature has been written on his early childhood and its implications on his personality while in power.    

Although Trump was a spoiled child in terms of growing up in a rich family, his childhood was distressing. It is not only money that brings happiness, but also family love and connection. In her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” Mary L. Trump — the daughter of Trump’s older brother — argued that there is a strong correlation between his abusive childhood and his personality as a leader. 

Trump was a bully and engaged in aggressive acts when he was a child. As a result of emotional neglect from his mother, Donald developed primitive hostile actions as a defense mechanism. Even though Donald’s father could have helped the child to overcome these problems, he did not. Trump’s father neglected and abused not only Trump but also his brother, who became an alcohol addict and died at the age of 42.  

The cover of the book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”, and author Mary L Trump.
via APE

In Mary Trump’s words, “child abuse is, in some sense, the experience of ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ [and] Donald directly experienced the not enough’”. As children, boys and girls need emotional support, family love, and connection, all of which were absent in Trump’s case. The emotional abuse, neglect of his mother and father, and the failure of a loving relationship between them were all considered traumatic events that negatively affected his wellbeing. Mary stated that these traumatic events “destroyed” Mr. Trump and robbed him of the “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” As mentioned above, one should not draw a direct relationship between childhood abuse and all the decisions taken by Trump while in office. However, early traumas and emotional neglect explain to a certain extent Trump’s aggressive policy towards his people. There is a common agreement that Trump lacks emotional intelligence, also known as “EQ.” 

Donald Trump
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

According to research done by the psychologist and science journalist, Daniel Goleman, “EQ” measures the person’s ability to perceive, control and evaluate their emotions. Leaders with high “EQ” can control their emotions and have empathy towards others, all of which are lacking in Trump’s personality.  

President Trump lied about the seriousness of the pandemic. He said the pandemic will disappear like a “miracle”. Giving people false hope, Mr. Trump is considered by many to be responsible for the death of millions of Americans.  

Donald Trump (center) with his mother Mary and father Fred in New York in 1994
via Mediapunch/Rex

The former manager of Trump’s campaign, Brad Parscale, said that Biden won the 2020 election because of Trump’s response to the pandemic; the lack of empathy is the reason why Mr. Trump failed to secure a second term. “I thought we should have public empathy,” said Parscale. “I think people were scared.” One can assume that Trump’s lack of empathy towards his people stems from the lack of emotional connection that he should have had during his childhood.                                        

Summarily, early childhood and lack of familial love can deeply impact a person’s life. The racist discourse against Black Americans, Muslims, and COVID-19 patients could be a result of a childhood that lacked any family love or care.