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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Dimitrion, LCSW, CST

My Little Man: The Long-Term Impacts of Childhood Parentification



Parentification is a process in which children are placed in adult roles and take on responsibilities that are typically associated with parents. This phenomenon can have both short-term and long-term effects on children.


Here are some of the long-term effects of parentification, supported by relevant citations:


  1. Mental Health Issues: Children who are parentified are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life. This is because they may have had to cope with a level of responsibility that is not developmentally appropriate, leading to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion (Nelson, 2016).

  2. Relationship Issues: Parentified children may also have difficulty forming healthy relationships as adults. This is because they may have learned to prioritize others' needs over their own and may struggle with boundaries and asserting their own needs (Jordan & Franklin, 2020).

  3. Difficulty with Intimacy: Parentification can also lead to difficulties with intimacy. These difficulties can manifest as fear of being vulnerable or fear of depending on others, making it challenging to form close relationships (Jordan & Franklin, 2020).

  4. Perfectionism: Parentified children may also develop a sense of perfectionism as they may feel like they need to be perfect to take care of their family. This can lead to a fear of failure and a tendency to overwork, leading to burnout (Nelson, 2016).

  5. Substance Abuse: Studies have shown that parentified children are at increased risk of developing substance abuse problems as adults. This may be due to the chronic stress and emotional exhaustion associated with taking on adult responsibilities at a young age (Jordan & Franklin, 2020).


References:

Jordan, A. H., & Franklin, C. A. (2020). The long-term effects of parentification: A review of the literature. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 12(3), 307-322.

Nelson, H. J. (2016). Parentification and mental health among emerging adults: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 25(4), 1204-1211.

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