Single-Parenting Households Contribution to the Parentification of Children


Parenting is a very critical element in the development of children. Parentification of children is the role reversal of children whereby they are obligated to play the role of a parent to their parents or siblings. In far-gone cases, the children are used to role play, thus alienating their parent’s emotional life. There are two distinctive parentification types, comprising instrumental and emotional. Instrumental parentification entails completing tasks by children for the family, such as looking after ailing relatives, bills payment, foreign language interpretation, or even helping the younger siblings in various ways.

Emotional parentification entails the child partaking in the position of a mediator between parents and family members (Raley and Megan, 85). This exploration takes its boarding from single-parent households where parenting is one-sided, thus analyzing its contribution to the parentification of children and its effect on their relationship during adult life.

Single parenting families are composed of the parent or caregiver and one or more children who are dependents without the help of supposed partners. Such situations occur due to several factors, such as divorce with one parent leaving the family (Raley and Megan, 82). Death is another common factor that is more of a calamity. In some cases, some circumstances, such as occupation, may cause the families to be split, leaving one parent to be the caregiver.

It is well known that parenting plays a critical role in adult achievement development. This cuts across cognitive ability, socioeconomic outlays, and taking a look at high adult achievement. This is attributed to the levels of warmth applied in moderation, reduced strictness levels, and high parental expectations. It trumpets the influence created by childhood circumstances on adult achievement (Noble‐Carr, Tim, and Morag, 184). Therefore, the role of parenting on adult behavior and well-being should be cross-examined in various substituents.

Establishing and maintaining mutual and healthy relationships is a crucial segment in the life of an adult, hence the need to co-exist and correlate with others. The relationships may be family, friendship, acquaintanceships, and romantic. Family is considered the first relationship which lays the foundation and shapes other relationships that individuals experience within their lifetime (Green et al., 398). Examples can be drawn from people who are always insecure in relationships in that it affects their trust levels in others. However, it is found that such people may have experienced traumas in their family upbringing, failure, rejection, or loneliness.

Such constituents can be drawn back from the parenting experience, which victimized them. Looking at parentification in children has also been considered to influence adult relationships (Hooper et al., 1032). It is shown by the roles they played during their childhood making them believe in valuation based on action, further depicting the correlation between parenting, parentification, and adult relationships.

Effects of the single-parent upbringing of children

Such parenting households tend to have both positive and negative impacts on children, affecting their adult actions and relationships. At first, such type of parenting always seemed to be burdensome as the caregiver has to perform several tasks and decisions. It promotes indifference compared to multiple parenting households since there will be a need to improvise effective ways to tackle the special challenges experienced. It proves difficult as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ (Goldin and Zachary 367). It means that for children to be brought up appropriately, the community needs to contribute since it is also where good relationship skills are made.

On the negative side, it is always hard to maintain discipline since the single parent is the only one who assumes the role of a disciplinarian. The single parent does not have a backup, and in cases of single mothers, the children take advantage and harbor behavioral problems. Such problems tend to manifest fully during adulthood and cause relationship problems such as disrespect. In addition, several responsibilities that tend to be burdensome to the parent tend to add stress and fatigue. This, in turn, directs the pressure on the children, who are mostly the firstborns in the family, leading to parentification.

The pressure transferred leads to higher responsibility to children, which may be overbearing. Such scenarios may breed adults who are unstable and always on heels for always helping others at their own expense (Green et al., 381). Such behaviors tend to form unstable adult relationships as some will be overdone. Lastly, children in such families may be envious of wholesome families, thus becoming resentful and forming unfulfilled adult relationships.

On the positive side, the shared responsibilities that breed parentification of children by contributing to the complete family system prove necessary. When possibly balanced within the parent-child structure, the appropriateness makes them understand the value of contribution, thus appreciating their work (Raley and Megan, 83). The product of all this is adults who will portray responsibility. In such cases, the relationships formed tend to be fulfilling since the other partners would be comfortable and lack neglect. Since parents tend to be overburdened by roles, it will force children to collaborate in working with them.

Consequentially, parentification is bred as they gain more skills and experiences, which are later harnessed to maturity. Maturity instances can lead to the breeding of empathetic adults who are also caring (Hooper et al. 44). Such adults also tend to be sad and disappointed since they demand much from themselves. Consequentially, such children tend to handle relationships with maturity, which is very important as they also portray virtues such as empathy that establish them.

Parentification impacts children

Parentification is very impactful to the developmental phase of every child since it poses sticking impacts when transitioning to childhood. It comes by when children play the role of a parent in various ways, such as contributing to the breadwinning activities and responsibilities. Raising their parents is another form of parentification in cases where the parent needs emotional support or acting as a mediator in family issues. Giving protection and care to siblings in cases such as abuse by parents or in abusive relationships stands to be another form (Hooper et al. 42). The feeling of missing out during childhood is another form of parentification since taking care of others physically or emotionally summing as inappropriate responsibility. There are several negative and positive impacts of parentification, which is dominant in single-parented households, and their effects on adult relationships as projected.

Many responsibilities are bestowed upon the children in single-parent households, especially the elder ones since the stray of cumbersome activities overrun their parents. This makes those children accustomed as givers or caretakers as they are only used to giving all the time. Consequentially, it builds in their inability to receive as they believe that their role is to give and that it is the only means in love experiencing and not receiving. Subconsciously they tend to be uncomfortable with receiving and feeling unworthy to receive, hence being attracted to only ‘takers’ (Hooper et al., 1034). Adult relationships co-exist with demanding people, which is detrimental as they can easily fall prey to toxic and manipulative people.

Some instances lead to its existence in single households, such as marital conflicts and divorce. When parents tend to involve children in some matters, their identities get entangled as they opt in, filling the adult emotional needs of the parents. In divorce cases, parental alienation tampers with the mindset of children, as in the case of them trying to meet the emotional needs of the parents. It happens in ways to heal the parent, relieve the sadness, depression, or anger, and fulfill their emotional needs. In turn, such children only believe and assume the role of the one meeting the needs of others. Consequentially, in adulthood, they form relationships in which they are the people-pleasers, martyrs, or protectors, which prove detrimental as they are prone to manipulation and being used.

Emotional void is another dominant feature in single-parent children since their needs are not met. It happens when the parents are always too depressed or busy finding no time to engage with their children. Such children tend to be unaware of their real identities. They may harbor feelings of shame or guilt, resulting in emotions of anger, anxiety, depression, isolation, and possible fear of relationship commitments. It further affects their relationships, which makes it hard for them to maintain or even commit to them.

Observing and analyzing parentification, some positive aspects can be picked. In single households where children are parentified due to responsibilities, it makes them more responsible and independent. It proves to be a good social skill if such children do not experience difficulties adapting to different scenarios and conditions. They also have a better work output and even in forming relationships, they tend to flourish since laziness is a major issue that brings conflicts. They also tend to harbor high emotional intelligence and empathy, which is crucial in sustaining relationships since they lack the states of relationships that are at risk. Such adults achieve more in relationships when partnered with good people. In career pathways such as being psychologists and advisors, adults who were parentified during childhood tend to give clients better services since they form better relationships and understand them more.

Adult life relationships

There was an early mention of relationships an adult can experience. It will be better to expound on them more and their dependence on parentification, specifically in single-parented households. In observing romantic relationships, several features tend to role play in their existence. Intimacy is critical since it conforms to a sense of warmth, love and bonding, and desires. Children who were negatively impacted by parentification tend to form adult relationships that lack proper intimacy. Physical, psychological, and social intimacy are perturbed in situations where they feel insecure or experience emotional instability. It also plays a critical role in marriage and cohabiting since emotional intelligence is the center of co-existence in such relationships.

Adults who underwent parentification and the resultant effect was high emotional intelligence tend to do better (Hooper et al., 1036). They are accustomed to being caring, understanding, and protective, which helps when any need arises and reduces conflicts. Such relationships are less prone to divorce cases and have an extended stay. Friendships play an essential role in the lives of everyone, including adults. Adults who had been parentified in their single-parented households sometimes know how to relate with friends since the community assisted in their upbringing (Hooper et al., 1038). It is well achieved by eliminating vices of selfishness, hate, and being uncaring. This trend is the same for other forms of relationships, proving the impact of single parenting and parentification in adult life relationships.


Parentification has been deemed the determinant when establishing adult relationships in that it can negatively or positively affect them. This essay has shown that different occurrences heavily influence adult relationships during childhood development. To form stable and healthy, they must have a proper upbringing. The discussion mainly centered on single-parent households and how they influenced children’s development.

In light of the findings, it can be seen that single-parent households play a vital role in parentification. A child from a single-parent household that lacks adequate support systems for their needs can develop behavioral problems in later adulthood. Therefore, the environment of single-parent households should be regulated to help shield children from the adverse effects associated with a missing parent. For example, single parents should ensure that children receive the emotional support they need to cope with the absence of one parent. Adequate support systems may include regular co-play, sufficient healthy food, proper schooling, and opportunities to form bonds outside the home environment.

Works Cited

Goldin, Jacob, and Zachary Liscow. “Beyond Head of Household: Rethinking the Taxation of Single Parents.” Tax L. Rev, Vol. 71, 2017, pp. 367-413.

Green, Gillian, et al. “Supportive Adult Relationships and the Academic Engagement of Latin American Immigrant Youth.” Journal of School Psychology, vol. 46, no.4, 2008, p. 393-412.

Hooper, Lisa M., et al. “Characterizing the Magnitude of the Relation Between Self‐Reported Childhood Parentification and Adult Psychopathology: A meta‐analysis.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 67, no.10, 2011, pp. 1028-1043.

Hooper, Lisa M., et al. “Parentification.” Models of psychopathology. Springer, 2014, pp. 37-54.

Noble‐Carr, Debbie, Tim Moore, and Morag McArthur. “Children’s experiences And Needs in Relation to Domestic and Family Violence: Findings from a Meta‐Synthesis.” Child & Family Social Work, vol. 25, no.1, 2020, pp. 182-191.

Raley, R. Kelly, and Megan M. Sweeney. “Divorce, Repartnering, and Stepfamilies: A Decade in Review.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 82, no.1, 2020, pp. 81-99.

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