Parentification in rural African American single mother families : a study of adolescent competence in context
Willert, Amanda Sue
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The primary aim of this dissertation was to examine parentification from a cultural and resilience perspective. Using longitudinal data, this dissertation represents one of the only efforts to clarify the family patterns of at-risk families that create parentification, and to discover the conditions in which parentification serves as a protective factor. Additionally, this study begins to refine our understanding of this complex family relationship by distinguishing among discrete domains of parentification. Data from the National Institute of Health, National Institute of Child and Human Development Study of Competence in Children and Families was utilized to complete the analyses. Participants involved in the present study included 156 randomly selected rural African American single-mothers with a first-born child aged 10-12 years. Based on both the risk and resilience model and the ecological model, the current study investigated the effects of maternal resources, maternal psychological functioning, parenting practices, and adolescent parentification on adolescent internalizing and externalizing behavior over time. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses revealed that instrumental aspects of parentification which fulfilled a functional need for the family contributed to adolescent competence through self-regulation, thus indicating that a valuable aspect of parenting for African American single-mother families may be relying on the oldest child for childrearing and household tasks. Furthermore, it was also found that when an adolescent performed emotional aspects of parentification within the family the adolescents from this sample displayed evidence of decreased self-esteem and increased depression resulting from emotional parentification. These results highlight the need to distinguish between domains of parentification in both research and clinical practice and further to consider the unique impact of familial and cultural processes at play which shape the development of parentification. Indeed, the current study also made clear that there are differing processes which reflect in the occurrence of each domain of parentification in rural African American single-mother families.