Is Parentification a Gendered Issue? Examining the Relevance of Gender in Adults’ Lived Experiences of Childhood Parentification

[thumbnail of THOMAS, Melanie - THESIS_nosignature.pdf]

Thomas, Melanie Ann (2017) Is Parentification a Gendered Issue? Examining the Relevance of Gender in Adults’ Lived Experiences of Childhood Parentification. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Parentification is commonly discussed in the psychological literature as a parent–child role reversal, in which children are often positioned in families as pseudo adults/parents (Hooper, 2007; Jurkovic, 1997). Interest in this phenomenon has largely been psychological and relevant literature has produced significant intra-personal insights (Jurkovic, 1997). However, an inherent limitation of existent research has been a failure to thoroughly examine the significance of gender affiliations within parentification dynamics. To address this research gap, I set out to explore the extent to which notions of gender are significant in adult participants’ recollections of parentification from a feminist perspective. The participants involved in this study include 9 females and 3 males, who self-identify with experiences of parentification. Applying a feminist-thematic analysis this study indicates that parentification is gendered in a number of significant ways. Gendered parenting norms influence mothers’ and fathers’ involvement in parentification. Additionally, this study shows that whether gender is relevant to the participants’ parentification tasks depends on the sex formation of the role reversal they are involved in. Participants in same-sex dynamics (mother–daughter, father–son) perform gender-normative tasks. In contrast, the tasks performed by the males in cross-sex dynamics (mother–son) are gender subversive. Further, this study shows that gender difference influences the outcomes of parentification, the nature of adult relationships, mental health and the seeking of professional psychological assistance. The findings of this study underline the usefulness of replacing a gender-blind perspective of parentification with a feminist understanding.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords role reversal; children; childhood; parents; gender; feminist; mental health; relationships; psychological assistance; professions
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login