Advantages and Disadvantages of Parentified Child Development


parentified child

Parentified child: the cultivation of self-esteem, intimacy and responsibility. Parentified children are typically those who were exposed to early parental values from their parents or other significant adults in their lives. In essence, these children are nurtured and allowed to explore those values. This is an important component to successful childhood development as it fosters a sense of responsibility, personal identity, personal mastery and an appreciation of others. There is an art to parenting as there is an art to painting.

Responsibilities become clear without being demanded. The need for adult guidance is removed. As a result of these adult responsibilities, children are able to take care of themselves and their emotional, physical and spiritual development. When caregiving responsibilities are eliminated, a child may display a certain amount of anxiety. If this anxiety is not managed properly, then the child may withdraw and show resistance to parental guidance and/or may show uncooperative behavior and tantrums.

An Overview

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Childhood trauma is experienced during parentified experiences. These can be events such as sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence or bullying. The results of these traumas may manifest in behavioral responses such as anger, depression, mistrust, anxiety, stress, shame and guilt.

Adult responses to childhood traumas may include alcohol or drug use, depression, alcohol withdrawal, eating disorders, substance use disorders, anxiety, adjustment disorders and anger. This adult response to parentified life events provides a framework for generating anxious or dysfunctional behaviors. Some of these behaviors are common. Others are unique to adult life in general. These core adult behaviors can be seen in the work place, families, relationships, schools or health care settings.

Parentified Child Development

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Although some behaviors are common in all of these settings, parentification offers two types of experiences that are distinct from one another. In order to understand how these two types of parentification differ, we must first explore the similarities between parentification and attachment parenting. Attachment parenting refers to a style of parenting that puts strong emphasis on responsive expression and human-scale interaction. This type of parenting generally relies on established family patterns, and the aim is to create interpersonal closeness, trust and safety.

In essence, attachment parenting relies on providing an emotional home base for emerging children. In essence, it is more responsive than authoritative parenting. It is also less focused on establishing healthy coping mechanisms or on attaining self-sufficiency. Many parents who adopt attachment parenting styles are quite aware that they do not have the scientific background to support their beliefs in this area. Many have found great success in developing meaningful relationships and enhancing their physical health through early intervention with children who are at risk for developing psychiatric illnesses such as attention deficit disorder, depression and hyperactivity.

Parentified children take on significantly greater responsibilities and deal with significantly more complexity in their lives. Children learn about social boundaries, responsibility for their own bodies and feelings, and how to interact with peers and adults. These children take on greater emotional, physical, and social responsibilities and learn complicated concepts such as healthy conflict resolution, caring for aging parents, communicating properly with their peers, maintaining healthy nutrition and fitness, managing money, and developing healthy recreational activities.

Bottom Line

These children also demonstrate higher levels of academic functioning and achievement. They demonstrate greater ability to form and maintain relationships and social networks and they often exhibit healthy perspectives towards sexuality, drugs, and alcohol use and abuse. The most significant change that occurs in parentified adolescents and young adults is that their self-image becomes aligned with that of their caregivers. Children may begin to question whether or not they measure up and the possibility of becoming “less than” the parent(s) looms large.

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