What Is Parentification?

How do you define Parentification? What are the Types of Parentification? How does Parentification affect a Child in the Long Run? Is it Bad for a Child to take Responsibility?
what is parentification

Every person plays a unique role in society. Most people are living alone and only a few are happy and satisfied with their roles. But things can go wrong when they are pushed to play a different role. More than adults, children face such issues in society. In this article, we will learn what is parentification and what are parentified child signs.

1. What is Parentification?

Two kids hanging together: what is parentification 1

Parentification is a role reversal process where a child is forced or obliged to act like parents to their younger siblings. They have to do everything that their parents will do for their kids like taking care of them, looking after their needs, and teaching them about life. Parentification mostly happens with kids or adolescents. Taking care of siblings or other relatives for a couple of days is not parentification. But when this process is carried on for a long period, children start considering themselves parents. They are known as parentified children. (See PhD Vs PsyD in Psychology)

2. What are the Types of Parentification?

According to psychologists, parentification is of two types: emotional parentification and instrumental parentification. You should understand the types to know the answer to what is parentification.

  • Emotional parentification is when a child is forced to act as a mediator between parents and other family members. For instance, when parents argue instead of talking to each other, they use their children to convey messages. In such a situation, the kid plays the role of his parents in the conversation, listening to their problems and also giving them advice.
  • Instrumental parentification is when a child has completely taken over the responsibilities of his parents and does all the physical and emotional work on their behalf. It can be for their siblings or any other relative. (See How to Deal With Family Members Who Put You Down?)

3. What are the Parentified Child Signs?

A sad boy.

Many people don’t know what is parentification as looking for parentified child signs can be complicated. Here are some of them.

  • A child that behaves like a mother or father is a parentified child. He or she is commonly over-stressed.
  • They learn to ignore their emotions always trying to be strong and independent.
  • They learn and embrace the personality of their parents, whose role they are playing, completely.
  • They act like their parent’s parents and take responsibility even when their parents are capable of doing it themselves.
  • The inner child in them is lost and they forget to play and enjoy themselves like a normal kid or a teenager. (See Different Types of BPD)

4. What are the Short-Term Effects of Parentification?

Parentification has both long-term and short-term effects on the mental and emotional health of a child. Some of its short-term effects include.

  • They are always depressed and have anxiety issues.
  • They are overburdened with work and the responsibilities of school and home. Some even drop out of school to fulfill responsibilities related to parentification.
  • Their social life gets ruined with hardly any friends. As a result, they are unable to share their feelings.
  • Sometimes when things are tough, they are unable to think clearly. Their mind starts thinking about freedom that can be attained through suicide.
  • They are always worried about their work and home and blame themselves if anything goes wrong. (Also read How to Know if Someone Loves You Psychology?)

5. How does Parentification affect a Child in the Long Run?

A girl lost in thoughts.

Long term effects of parentification are as follows:

  • Such a child can develop an unauthorized sense of entitlement.
  • They find it hard to trust anyone.
  • They are unable to get into stable relationships because they cannot think about their responsibilities. They find it difficult to be alone without their family or siblings.
  • They often suffer from chronic illnesses.
  • They suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, and depression. (Also read 6 Negative Health Effects of Self Harm and Cutting Habits)

An example of such a kid can be seen in the Turkish drama series Bizim Hikaye. Fiza, the female protagonist of this series is a parentified child and this series perfectly captures what is parentification and how it can ruin a child’s life.

6. Is it Bad for a Child to take Responsibility?

No, there is nothing wrong with teaching a child how to take responsibility and do things like household chores. It is necessary for a kid to learn all this so they can become better prepared for emergencies or when their parents are absent. But do not mix responsibility with parentification. Making a child responsible, teaching them right and wrong, and preparing them for certain situations are all part of a child’s healthy development. It will make them sensible adults. (See How to Deal With a Disrespectful Child?)

7. What is a Healthy Family?

A mother and son looking through pictures in the camera: what is parentification 2

Generally, parents talk to their kids about their day. They sometimes share why they are stressed at work and other similar topics depending upon the age of their child. But over-sharing things with a child and expecting them to solve it or give advice is wrong. In healthy families, parents are the heads and are seen as the protectors of the family whereas kids are allowed to live their life with their childlike innocence. (See How to Be Loved By Everyone?)

8. Can a Person Heal from Parentification?

Yes, it is possible to heal from parentification.

  • The first step is to remind yourself that you are just a kid and there is a childhood to be enjoyed.
  • Enjoy the freedom of childhood and laugh, play, eat and sleep freely.
  • Fulfill your inner child’s dreams and desires like going to a theme park, watching your favorite cartoon movie in the theater, buying toys, dollhouses, etc.
  • If you need help in regaining yourself then feel free to reach out to a therapist or a trusted friend without any hesitation.
  • Never let anyone or anything snatch away that precious feeling of childhood freedom from you. (Also read How to Heal Yourself Emotionally?)

In this article, we covered what is parentification and how it can affect the lives of kids. You all should be conscious and identify parentified child signs and try your best to help those kids regain their childhood. (See Best Child Psychology Books)

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