Child Parentification: The Cause, Signs, and Recovery

 / 

, ,
Clear Signs Of Child Parentification In Adults

Ever felt like you were the parent instead of the child? That might be child parentification. Let’s explore its causes, signs, and how to recover together.

The term child parentification was coined in 1967 by family systems theorist Salvador Minuchin, who said the phenomenon occurred when parents de facto delegated parenting roles to children.

It can happen when one parent is physically absent or when a dysfunctional family is under stress because a parent cannot perform their parental responsibilities.

Usually, this is due to a physical or mental impairment that may be caused by mental illness, a disability, addiction, emotional disconnection between the parents, or environmental stressors, such as poverty or financial instability.

These circumstances can lead to a role reversal between one or both parents and a child who takes on age-inappropriate adult responsibilities. Instead of supporting their child practically and emotionally, the child supports the parent(s). Parentification may be “instrumental” or “emotional,” or both.

Related: Unpacking Parentification Trauma: The Burden of Growing Up Too Soon

5 Clear Signs Of Child Parentification In Adults

Signs Of Child Parentification In Adults

With instrumental parentification, the child’s role might include:

  • Raising siblings (bathing, dressing, feeding, or comforting them in place of their parents)
  • Managing the household (paying bills, marketing, household chores, or scheduling appointments)
  • Financially supporting the family

Emotional parentification that can lead to enmeshment with a parent caused by:

  • Mediating parental conflict
  • Giving emotional support to a parent

These children don’t have the maturity to comprehend and manage adult responsibilities and problems nor why they continue despite their best efforts, so they try even harder to no avail.

They feel lonely, anxious, tired, resentful, and helpless. They have to grow up quickly, suppress their needs and feelings, and are often unable to participate in normal developmental activities. They struggle with self-doubt, shame, and insecurity.

Signs a child or teenager is under stress due to parentification may be anxiety, depression, physical complaints, shame, addiction, anger, and interpersonal problems. It may also affect academic performance if the child is preoccupied with caring for their parents and family.

Related: What Is Parentification: Identifying The Signs, Types, Effects, And How To Deal With Parentification Trauma

Symptoms Of Parentification In Adults

Although parentified children learn responsibility, empathy, conscientiousness, and valuable practical skills, they suffer harmful emotional effects that can follow them into adulthood.

Symptoms may stem not only from their role, but also from the dysfunctional family system. The lack of parental emotional support can be considered emotional abandonment trauma and lead to focusing on others and codependency.

Problems continue, jeopardizing their mental health, and relationships with others. They sacrifice their feelings, needs, and wants and learn that their role is to be responsible for and take care of others.

They may end up in abusive or exploitative relationships where they continue their role of caretaking and accommodating a selfish or needy partner, while their needs aren’t met. They’ve been trained to disown their needs and wants, fear they may be a burden, and that expressing them would be selfish.

Instead, they derive worth from being needed, yet soon become unhappy due to the imbalance in their relationships. At work, they become the go-to reliable employee who is willing to stay late and take on extra responsibilities. They may be perfectionists.

Without appropriate interpersonal boundaries, they may fear independence if they continue to care take a parent as an adult. Alternatively, they may leave home and learn to be independent and self-sufficient.

Still, in relationships, they have difficulty saying no and are often resentful for what they give and what they’ve lost. Thus, they create emotional distance due to fears their autonomy will be compromised and they will be used or burdened by intimacy and healthy dependency.

It’s hard for them to trust being vulnerable and learning that they can depend on others.

Healing Parentification

Healing child parentification includes healing codependency, which includes overcoming shame and low self-esteem, learning to honor your own needs and feelings, becoming assertive and setting appropriate boundaries.

Inner child work, sometimes called reparentification, is helpful to reconnect with the lost child inside who yearns for recognition, validation, and love.

© 2024 Darlene Lancer

So what are your thoughts on the symptoms of parentification? Share your inputs and stories in the comments below!


Written by: Darlene Lancer
Originally appeared on: whatiscodependency.com
healing parentification

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

How To Successfully Go No Contact With Toxic Parents? 8 Tips To Follow

Best Tips For Going No Contact With Parents Who Are Toxic

In real life, is there an unfollow button for people, especially parents? If you are going no contact with parents, below are 8 tips that could help you make up your mind.

The hardest thing you’ll ever do is close the door on your past. It will also be the most empowering.

You don’t just wake up one day and decide to cut your mom or dad out of your life – it’s a decision that comes after years of trying everything to preserve the relationship.

But something in you finally snaps – you see that the cost of this connection is too high, and maybe for the first time in your life, you choose yourself.

Related:



Up Next

What Does It Mean To Be Family Oriented? 6 Signs You Are Close To Your Family

What Does It Mean To Be Family Oriented? Heartening Signs

What does it mean to be family oriented? It’s more than just sharing a surname or coming together for the holidays. Being family-oriented means cherishing the people who are there for you through thick and thin, even when life gets messy. Being family-oriented means appreciating the family you have been blessed with.

Not everyone is family oriented, but the people who are know how lucky they are. From having fun together to having each other’s backs, your family is your greatest strength and you can do anything to protect and cherish them.

Let’s explore the signs you are a family oriented person, and if you feel you are not, but want to be, we will discuss how to be more family oriented.

Related:



Up Next

6 Unique Parenting Practices In Different Cultures To Learn From

Interesting Parenting Practices In Different Cultures

Did you know that parenting practices across cultures differ? It’s not always about attachment, some encourage independence.

Every day, most of us struggle to find a way to handle raising children. Luckily there’s an endless amount of parenting advice out there in books, online, and from friends and family.

Nobody really knows what they’re doing when they first become parents. So we soak up every piece of information we can get our hands on. Most of it is influenced by our surroundings and the culture we live in. It does not even occur to us to look at different circles for new ideas about how to raise a child.



Up Next

3 Questions To Empower Your Children

Questions To Empower Your Children

If you are thinking how to empower your children, then you’ve come to the right place. When it comes to their experiences at school or life in general, these 3 questions to empower your children can be really helpful. Let’s find out how to empower your children, and which questions to ask.

KEY POINTS

It takes away children’s power to tell them what to do or to belittle their challenges.

Asking them questions activates their inner power.

Ask, “What have you tried? How did it work? What else can you try?”

What’s the first thing you do when your child tells you about a



Up Next

5 Best Toys For Your Kids That Are Absolutely Free

Best Toys For Your Kids That Are Absolutely Free

Do you want to know about some of the best free toys for your kids, even best toys for your newborn? Playing with your kids are some of the best times you will ever spend with each other. Even though getting them toys from the market can make them happy, there are some “toys” that can make them even happier. Explore some of the best toys for your kids that are absolutely free.

KEY POINTS

Everyday objects—including your own self—make the best toys.

No matter what age your child may be, your attention and enthusiasm are more valuable than any toy.

Great toys trigger imagination, but many toys inhibit the imagination by prescribing one way to play.



Up Next

5 Things To Say To Yourself During Tough Parenting Times

Tough Parenting Times: Powerful Things To Say To Yourself

Staying calm when handling your children, especially when they’re throwing tantrums and are emotionally charged up, can be a tough task to deal with. Tough parenting times can sometimes take a toll on you, and in order to manage that effectively, these are the five things to say to yourself during tough parenting times. Let’s explore that, shall we?

KEY POINTS

When children cry, have a tantrum, or act up and it can’t be “fixed” right away, it’s easy for a parent to feel helpless.

People who feel helpless often act impulsively.

It’s powerful to assume that a child’s troubling behavior is an attempt at communication.



Up Next

How To Become A Better Father And Create Lasting Memories With Your Kids

How To Become A Better Father: Tips and Tricks

Wondering how to become a better father? It’s a question that has echoed through the ages, as fathers play a vital role in shaping the lives of their children. 

The journey of fatherhood is a unique and rewarding experience that requires patience, love, and a deep commitment to personal growth. Let us explore the essence of a good father and provide actionable tips on being a good father. 

Whether you are a new dad or have been on this journey for a while, this guide will serve as a compass to help you navigate the challenges and joys of fatherhood.

Who is a Good Father?