I am a parental child and scapegoat

INTRODUCTION: This article is part of a series titled “In My Own Defense”

ISSUE #1: Parentification

PARENTIFICATION DEFINED: “a disturbance in the generational boundaries, such that evidence indicates a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the office child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.” (Hooper, 2007b, p. 323)

EMOTIONAL PARENTIFICATION DEFINED:  “emotional parentification requires the child to fulfill specific emotional and/or psychological needs of a parent and is more often destructive for child development than instrumental parentification (Hooper, 2007a). For example, the emotionally parentified child may be expected to gauge and respond to the emotional needs of the parent, serve as confidante and an unwavering source of support, and provide crisis intervention during times of psychological distress (Aldridge, 2006; Hooper, 2007b; Katz et al., 2009). This subtype, which often occurs in concert with instrumental parentification, is most often found within family systems in which a parent suffers from mental illness or adult attachment issues (Aldridge, 2006). In order to deal with his or her own deficits, which likely arose in childhood, the parent expects emotional or psychological support from the child without reciprocation (Hooper, 2007b).”

ISSUE #2: Scapegoat

“Scapegoat theory refers to the tendency to blame someone else for one’s own problems, a process that often results in feelings of prejudice toward the person or group that one is blaming. Scapegoating serves as an opportunity to explain failure or misdeeds, while maintaining one’s positive self-image” (Scapegoat Theory Definition, n.d.)

I have to be honest, I’m ready to be done with this post series

However, there is a part of me, that anal retentive idiot, whom is insistent that I complete what I start.  So I will simply be brief here.  “In my own defense”, it was necessary for me to tend to my parents’ needs growing up.  My mother wasn’t from “around here”, and I instinctively felt it was essential to “Stick up for her” as the “minority”. At some level, I knew she was worried about growing up because she didn’t know how to help me.  There were times, I was aware she was ignorant to how bad it was here and that many of my teachers in school, unfairly judged here.  The lack of multicultural sensitivity is pretty standard in the small town I grew up in (especially in the 70’s and 80’s)…..

My dad, on the other hand, is another story,  He “marched to his own drum”, and was not very “socially aware”.  It took me a while to realize that this was due more to his own cluelessness than any rebellious desire to “buck tradition”.   As an “INTP personality type”, who always had pride for his intellect and advanced education.  However, these ego-based front to the world, hid his insecurity and areas of weakness: emotion.  He hated discussing feelings, acknowledging them, and lived by the motto of isolationist stoicism.  However, this didn’t necessarily mean he had no emotions.  He just pretended they weren’t there.  Like when he came home and got annoyed if you asked him a question when he was watching t.v….Or if we were driving and some idiot cut him off.  When he gets angry or anxious he becomes this stupid 2-years-old and pouts until he gets his way.  My mother does what she can to appease him in that motherly way.  I learned from hear early, that the sooner you could get him to his preferred state of emotional detachment – the better.  This meant, I adjusted my actions throughout the day to adjust for how he felt.

And if this emotional parentification, wasn’t enough, there was the need to feel as if I had to feel like it was my fault.  Which it always was.  You see, it had to be.  There was no way, my parents are every going to be able to acknowledge the contextual situation within which my suicidal ideation flourished.  I needed to realize, it was my fault and I needed t apologize.  I have since forgiven, however forgetting is not really possible…


Engelhardt, J. A. (2102) The Developmental Implications of Parentification: Effects on Childhood Attachment. Retrieved from : “http://www.tc.columbia.edu/publications/gsjp/gsjp-volumes-archive/gsjp-volume-14-2012/25227_Engelhardt_Parentification.pdf”
Hooper, L. M. (2007b). Expanding the discussion regarding parentification and its varied outcomes: Implications for mental health research and practice. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 19, 322-337.
Scapegoat Theory Defintion (n.d.) Retrieved from:  http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/social-psychology-theories/scapegoat-theory/
Point #4: “I had to provide support at the expense of my own well-being.  To this day, my father has received the fruit of my own emotional parentification by believing honestly that “I had a happy childhood”.  My mother has received the fruit of my role as the scapegoat by saying “my conscience has been resolved” 

Share This: