Parent, Adult & Child ego states


  • Archaic.
  • Replaying behaviour, thinking and/or feelings that we have learned from someone else in the past.
  • Controlling or Nurturing


  • Here and now.
  • Processing information rationally and making decisions about how to act.


  • Archaic.
  • Replaying behaviour, thinking and/or feelings that we ourselves have experienced in the past.
  • Adapted or Natural
  • Natural Child:
    • Genuine feelings – letting others know how we feel.
    • Curiosity, creativity, brainstorming.
    • May be seen as immature or over-emotional, out of touch with the real world. or naive.
  • Adapted Child:
    • Development of social skills and behaviour.
    • Conform to gender-specific messages and other norms.
    • May be seen as lacking in confidence or not able to accept responsibility.
    • Difficulty in resisting unreasonable demands.
    • May overcompensate and become aggressive or rebellious.

Nurturing Parent:

  • Nurturing and caring.
  • May smother with concern, denying people the opportunity to develop their own skills.

Controlling Parent:

  • Set rules and boundaries to keep people safe.
  • May be seen as bossy or overbearing.


  • Logical and rational.
  • May be seen as boring and pedantic.

Internal ego states can occur together with external ego states and can be spotted when the behavioural aspects of a communication seem intuitively out of line with what we feel is happening.

Internal Child

Needs, wants and feelings, which are collected and stored. Emotions can be recalled when an incident triggers an emotional response from the past. We may display these emotions through our natural child, or choose another ego state if we feel this is more appropriate.

Internal Parent:

Storage of behaviour copied from others, together with associated beliefs, values and opinions.

Internal Adult:

Processes received information and compares this with the reaction generated by our Internal Adult and Internal Child. Makes choices and balanced decisions. Channels of communication

Complementary transactions continue indefinitely.
Crossed transactions result in a break in communication.

4 channels of good communication (we usually prefer one or two):

Adult – Adult problem-solvingNurturing Parent – Natural Child nurturingNatural Child – Natural Child having fun, being creativeControlling Parent – Adapted Child giving instructions

Adequate channels:

Nurturing Parent – Nurturing Parent discussing how to care for othersControlling Parent – Controlling Parent agreeing what rules to apply to others Adapted Child – Adapted Child being compliant or rebellious together

Crossed transactions are only useful to make a significant change in a communication. This is more successful if you adopt one of the 4 preferred channels first.
Ulterior transactions have a hidden message, picked up by our Internal Child. The behavioural outcome is determined by the psychological (ulterior) level of the transaction (ie the secret agenda carries the most weight).

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