The two adults who contribute the most to Pecola's negative self-image are, unfortunately, her parents.
Her mother, Pauline, had internalized a view of herself as ugly long before she was married or given birth to Pecola. In general, Pauline has adopted a then-prominent view that light skin was more attractive and that dark-skinned blacks were ugly. Suffering from an untreated childhood injury to her foot, another factor in judging herself unattractive, Pauline initially finds positive meaning through her sexual relationship and then marriage to Cholly. When Pecola is born dark-skinned, Pauline transfers her negativity from herself to her child.
Pecola's father, Cholly, is an emotionally immature, self-centered, irresponsible man. His narcissism and confusion of sexual desire for love prove a lethal combination. While his rape of his own daughter is despicable enough, afterward when she becomes pregnant he does not help her or protect her from the town's censure. Although Pauline's neglect of and hostility to her daughter cause lasting psychological damage, it is Cholly's sexual abuse that ultimately pushes Pecola over the edge.