Have you ever noticed an over –responsible friend, colleague or relative who is always there to offer help, resolve a problem or take care of things without asking for return? Haven’t you asked them why they care much about others while they neglect their own needs and emotions? Although experience have shown that most of these people rarely are doing so due to the dark side of their childhood. Rarely do they reveal their about their suffering, but psychology has found the answer to this quarrel and resumed it in the parentification term. Most of these heroes of interpersonal relations have certainly endured tough childhood with a burden of household responsibilities, the thing that we parents must recognize to perform appropriate upbringing.

Who is a parentified child? 

First, the notion of parentification was coined by the family theorist Salvador Minuchin in 1967, who made a psychological study on children with parental roles, and which was later explored by the psychologist Ivan Boszormenyi who affirms that this matter is intensified when there is unbalanced reciprocity between parents and children. From a sociological perspective, the normal family system assumes that parents are the right caregivers who look after their children providing them with the necessary emotional care and surveillance. Most of the parents keep their eye of mercy on their children and never wait for mutual reciprocity. However, in the midst of a demanding life of concerns and responsibilities, keeping their house stable and peaceful has become unreachable for a lot of parents nowadays. It is at this point of chaos that a child has to interfere with extraordinary amount of emotional and intellectual capacity to bring back ease and calmness to the house while the child’s psychic condition is at stake. A child with such burden of responsibility is enduring what we psychologically call parentification.

At the cost of their own natural right to live a normal childhood, parentified siblings are those innocent children being raised in pervasive parental dispute and lack of home stability and who are forced to be in the center to ironically look after their parents’ emotions and needs at the expense of their.

How do parentified children feel?

        There is no option for children to avoid the occurring problems of their own families because they didn’t have the ability to choose their parents. Families with divorce, daily parental conflict, financial problem, or even a widowed father or mother, all these conditions allow the child’s mindset to react and reach advanced maturity. 
Of course they should struggle to grow up the sooner they can as parental children in order to take on the role of the house mediator who can restore peace at home. However, the shocking fact is that parental children suffer in silence. Studies in psychology have shown that parental children undergo the following pains:
  • They must bear their parents’ daily conflicts and outbursts.

  • They must be in the center of their parents relationship to resolve incessant disputes.

  • They turn to adult-like children and become the only responsible for their home’s medical and economic stability.

  • They are forced to stay home longer while their free time is being deprived.

  • They must listen to their parents and provide them with emotional care.

  • They do not grow up in favorable upbringing conditions.

  • They do not enjoy healthy childhood.

Is is beneficial to be a parentified child?

In the midst of daily violence and parental conflict, parentified children are forced to be the right mediators who can help out the issue if they want to survive. That is why, psychology has found that children with parentification are emotionally and intellectually strong compared to their counterparts of the same age. One of their brain traits is the ability to describe the problem in a very short time and then find prompt surgery to re-establish their memorized picture of normality.

From a parentified child to a parentified adult 

        Parentified children hardly ever express their feelings due to their over exaggerated care they provide for others. In most of the rare situations when they try to speak out, their discourse is mingled with fear, hesitation, anger, and shame. The psychologist and pediatrician Donald Winnicott (1960) points out that while parentified children do not hold tendency to defend their own needs and feelings, they turn to parentified adults who develop the urge to be in the service of co-workers and relatives within exploitative relationships. Excessive parentification, according to psychologists, can also affect intimate relationships where the sense of being hurt doesn’t seem normal. Parentified adults can develop what is psychologically called masochistic personality disorder, which refers to having the pleasure to enjoy abusive and humiliating treatment during sexual relations.
The dangerous side of parentification, which parents must be aware of, is the fact that parentified adults always believe in repairing any kind of relationship despite its amount of violence and risk which can put their survival at stake. Accordingly, the moment parentified adults apply the principle of assistance and interference at the expense of their own emotions, they allow their partners to manipulate them in an abusing way without being able to say “no”. Moreover, we must bear in mind that there is a risk that parentified adult continue on the same cycle with their children in a reversed way. They tend to find the missed care and support in their children who have to endure parentification as well.

Can we destroy parentification?The answer is literally “YES”. Parentification can always be resolved from within. We cannot expect a parentified children to rescue themselves from parentification unless we parents help them out. That is way, the following suggestions are specifically for Parents who think have alredy experienced or are still experiencing parentification at work or at home:
  • A parentified person must recognize that he or she being parentified at the first place. Our mental radar allows us to figure out this fact by asking questions about the time and assistance we spare for others compared to that for our own.
  • Once we find out about the existence of parentification in our life, we must learn how to set bounderies with others and how to say no in the right time. The social space we create is healthy and must be considered our safety zone that others mustn’t cross.
  • When we try to eradicate parentification, our closed family members will be surprised for not receiving the usual total obedience that we have offering for years. However, they are expected to accept that their excessive reliance is no longer bearable, which allows them to find the best alternatives on their own.
  • Healthy discussion with those who count much on us is an interpersonal bridge that we must all pass through in order to set the basic rules of our new narrative of accountability. Expressing oneself is mandatory and must heal any tension or misunderstanding that may occur while we refuse to be eternal obedient.
  • Feeling guilty for not being a parentified adult anymore is quite natural given the fact that you have always been feeling you are the convenient problem solver. You may isolate yourself to cry and feel ashamed, but you must pull yourself together and stick to the change to reach stronger persona and live a more realistic life where your own feelings and needs can finally be heard and healed at ease.
        Undoubtedly, parents who are aware of the parentification pathology or were forced to endure it during childhood will do their best to alter their interpersonal relationships and, on the other hand, raise their children through normal give-and-take conditions.