The FAWN Response

The Fawn Response Explained

The fawn response occurs when a child tries to please someone who is both their caregiver AND a source of threat to stay safe and loved.

When parents are abusive or neglectful, the child learns to cope by taking care of the parent’s emotional or physical needs. If I please my parent, then they won’t hit me. If I make dinner and listen to her problems, maybe she won’t drink all night and bring men home. This is a child trying to control their environment in the only way they know how. 

As this happens, the child abandons their own needs and emotions. They will walk on eggshells and moderate how they are depending on how they perceive the adult. 

The child can’t express what is going on for them because the parent doesn’t care or will punish them, so the child hides their real feelings sometimes to the point of total disconnection from the body and their needs. 

This can result in people-pleasing behaviour and co-dependence as the child can only be safe and okay if the parent is okay. 

The Fawn Response
Reference: Dr Arilelle Schwartz,