What is Parentification?

Parentification is defined as a type of role reversal that includes boundary distortions and an inverted hierarchy between parents and other family members whereby youth assume developmentally inappropriate emotional and instrumental caregiving activities in the family system that go unrecognized, unsupported, and unrewarded.

The Empirical Study of Parentification

Similar to child maltreatment, it is hypothesized that parentification is underreported and underrecognized. Consequently, prevalence rates of parentification (or young caregiving) are not well known. Because of parentification’s ubiquity and potentially pernicious outcomes, it is important that researchers continue to examine the multi-dimensional and complex aspects of this construct and family systems process, so that ecologically valid, culturally-tailored prevention and intervention methods can be developed and tested. Equally important is employing a balanced approach to clarifying when parentification may lead to positive outcomes and among whom.

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  • Parentified youth are young caregivers
  • Parentified youth are often mature minors
  • Parentified youth may be language brokers
  • Parentified youth may become “little” parents

Parentification Inventory

"For the past 18, years Dr. Hooper, collaborators, and student-researchers have investigated correlates, predictors, and outcomes associated with parentification, including cultural factors and unique family ecologies that may inform differential outcomes of parentification. Dr. Hooper developed the Parentification Inventory, an instrument, which captures the extent to which one has been parentified, in her or his family of origin. To learn more about the Parentification Inventory, its psychometric properties, and in what languages it has been translated, click here.

Publications on Parentification


Translations of the
Parentification Inventory


Dr. Lisa M. Hooper’s Books on Parentification

Models of psychopathology: Generational processes and relational roles. New York, NY: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-8081-5

Parentification: Racial, ethnic, cultural, and contextual influences on assessment, intervention, and treatment. New York, NY: Springer.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (2005), 1.4 million children and adolescents in the United States assist with some form of caregiving (e.g., emotional parentification, instrumental parentification, or sibling-focused parentification), and approximately 1 million American households have a young caregiver. Less is known about caregiving in international communities.

Contact Dr. Lisa M. Hooper

Lisa M. Hooper, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Richard O. Jacobson Endowed Chair for Research
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614 - 0410

If you have any questions about Dr. Hooper’s work related to the study of parentification or the development and refinement of and psychometric properties for the Parentification Inventory, she can be reached by email. To learn more about Dr. Hooper’s complete research program you may visit her research lab website at: http://lisahooper-researchlab.com