, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 245-257

Parentification of Adult Children of Divorce: A Multidimensional Analysis

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Abstract

The goal of this study was to compare the responses of late adolescent and young adult children of divorce and nondivorce on a new multidimensional measure of parentification assessing the extent and fairness of past and present caregiving in one's family of origin. Three-hundred-and-eighty-two individuals participated. Item analyses and internal consistencies of the different parentification scales were initially conducted on one-half of the sample and cross-validated on the other half. The scores of European and African American participants from the validation sample whose parents either divorced before middle adolescence (N = 35) or never divorced (N = 68) were then compared. The divorced group reported providing more emotional and instrumental caregiving and experiencing more unfairness in their families of origin than did the nondivorced group, although the effect for emotional caregiving was moderated by temporal perspective. Evidence that problematic forms of parentification in children of divorce continue into late adolescence and young adulthood has implications for models of understanding and helping these children and their families.