Background: This article discusses how childhood experiences can influence mental health in adulthood. The material is taken from Thorvald Steen’s novel Vekten av snøkrystaller (The Weight of Snowflakes) (author’s translation). The novel describes a boy’s experiences with emotionally-absent parents. The mother has emotional problems and is encapsulated in her own world. The father is constricted by the mother’s condition and tries to hide the situation they are in. This leads to many family secrets which are felt by the boy as betrayal, loneliness, humiliation, abandonment, guilt and shame. Earlier research makes a point of the importance of good emotional attachment for social, emotional and cognitive development. These results suggest that the boy’s experiences can lead to mental confusion and disturbed identity formation, with great implications for his mental health in adult life.