Identifying Patterns of Adaptive and Destructive Parentification in Childhood

Doctoral Dissertation


Parentification occurs when a child is implicitly or explicitly charged with the responsibility of protecting and sustaining parents, siblings, and the family system (Jurkovic, 1997). The present study sought to provide exploratory empirical support for parentification theory, which distinguishes between familial patterns of parentification that are destructive to child development and familial patterns of parentification that are an adaptive response to familial stress. Finite mixture modeling with children’s representations of adult-like caregiving roles, children’s perceptions of maternal and paternal competence, and maternal and paternal reports of support versus restriction of the developing child’s autonomy as well as children’s concurrent and subsequent adjustment across domains were utilize to distinguish familial profiles that are destructive to child development from those that are adaptive and from those that are normative, non-risk familial processes. Results of the present study support the occurrence of multiple familial patterns of parentification. First, a non-risk class was detected. Second, a destructive parentification class in which adult-like caregiving and psychological control were greatest relative to the other classes. Unexpectedly, the third class identified displayed a pattern that was not characterized by adaptive parentification but, instead, was characterized by adult-like caregiving roles and caregiving competence levels that were moderate in relation to the other classes. Contrary to predictions, the classes did not differ on measures of child adjustment (internalizing, externalizing, social problems, prosocial behavior, cortisol reactivity to familial stress) concurrently or over time. Results emphasize the importance of considering familial processes of parentification within the broader context in which they occur.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04172015-142726

Author Amy Kathleen Nuttall
Advisor Kristin Valentino
Contributor E. Mark Cummings, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Kristin Valentino, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Lijuan Wang, Committee Member
Contributor Scott E. Maxwell, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2015-04-09

Submission Date 2015-04-17
  • United States of America

  • Parentification

  • family dynamics

  • parenting

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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