Parentification: when the roles are reversed...
The book also describes the most important criteria for identification so that anyone who might encounter or need to deal with this family psychopathology (such as educators, social workers, psychologists, etc.) will have a better understanding of the problem. As the intended goal is to relieve the child's burden without brutally tearing them away from the role their father or mother assigned to them, the transition must be gradual. Yet if social services find out that a child is being parentified, they might immediately seek to remove the child from their family. But instead of helping the child, removal could have even more disastrous consequences. If the child knows that no other alternative measures have been taken, they will constantly be worried and their anxiety will increase tenfold. They will only feel better once they are sure that someone is taking care of their parent, that someone has taken over their responsibility. According to the young researcher, it is therefore essential to work with other family members and set up a network of caregivers.
Several forms of parentification
If parentification is not detected and treated as quickly as possible, it can take deep roots in the family and perpetuate itself for several generations. However, recognising parentification is not easy since it takes a variety of different forms. Some are easier to identify since they are more obvious. Stéphanie Haxhe provides several examples in her book based on her clinical experience, while being careful to reframe and redefine some models that haven't often been addressed in the scientific literature. The "caregiver" child who gives up their studies to stay home with an alcoholic or depressed parent is one example. They are often identified by educators or teachers, who then notify the school's health and welfare centre.