Skip to main content



Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - December 22, 2017 and is updated quarterly.

Instructions: Postings are listed for browsing with the newest messages first. Click on the linked ID number to see a message. You can search the author, subject, message ID, and message content fields by entering your criteria into this search box:

Message ID: 8791
Date: 2011-01-17

Author:lfontesrcn.com

Subject:parentification and culture

Certainly, how we evaluate which tasks are appropriate for children at which ages is culturally determined. In the U.S. most people consider it acceptable for children as young as one day to sleep in a room by themselves, but we do not consider it acceptable for a 7 year old to bathe, feed or otherwise care for a younger sibling. In many cultures, they feel quite the opposite. I guess we must ask ourselves whether given expectations placed on a child are in fact objectively dangerous or harmful before terming a child "parentified," a term that implies pathology. The book, The Cultural Nature of Human Development by Barbara Rogoff has a wonderful discussion of this and related topics. Lisa Fontes, Ph.D. University of Massachusetts Author, Child Abuse & Culture: Working with Diverse Families ---- Original message ---- >Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 13:45:55 -0800 >From: bounce-7664010-6833644@list.cornell.edu (on behalf of Poha Kane ) >Subject: Re: two questions about common labels >To: Child Maltreatment Researchers > >If by the first term you mean also "parentified," yes, it has been >around a long time. I've not heard it misused though. Not as I >understand the term, that is to say that a child is seen as taking on >some parental functions with either or both siblings and parents. > >I include in "parentified," though have not heard it from others, >workers using a child to communicate with non English speaking adult >family members on family issues. I think we can be as guilty of >misusing a child in this way as a dysfunctional family might do for >other reasons. > >Where I most encountered (I am currently retired and have been for 7 >years) misuse by over generalization of "attachment disordered," is to >apply it inaccurately to a behavior cluster that may well be diagnosed >as something quite different - PTSD, for instance. The issues of a >failure of a child to attach normally are far too broad in scope to >umbrella with such terms - and it's not specific enough to really be >useful in data gathering. I hope it's not appearing anywhere as data. > >Either term you offer, but especially the latter, can effect data and >skew supposed case outcome results, such as claiming a failure to >resolve issues when in fact they weren't the presenting problem - >which may or may not have resolved. > >As one might presume, the terms, and others less exact as well, are >often used sans formal diagnosis. I would hope our data comes from >collecting diagnoses by the proper agents/vendors and not simply case >notes alone. Or at least that researchers are careful to point out >the fluid nature of such terms, and their inexactness. Most do so I >believe. > >Kane > >On 1/15/11, D F MCMAHON wrote: >> >> Two labels that are endemic in child welfare cases are "parentification" and >> "attachment disorder". These have been around for quite awhile. The source >> is usually a CPS investigator, a caseworker, or a therapist, sometimes a >> foster parent, once in awhile an adoptive or step-parent. My question is not >> really specific, but wondering about your thoughts as to use and/or misuse >> of these labels. >> Thanks, >> Sheri McMahon >

Certainly, how we evaluate which tasks are appropriate for children at which ages is culturally determined. In the U.S. most people consider it acceptable for children as young as one day to sleep in a room by themselves, but we do not consider it acceptable for a 7 year old to bathe, feed or otherwise care for a younger sibling. In many cultures, they feel quite the opposite. I guess we must ask ourselves whether given expectations placed on a child are in fact objectively dangerous or harmful before terming a child "parentified," a term that implies pathology. The book, The Cultural Nature of Human Development by Barbara Rogoff has a wonderful discussion of this and related topics. Lisa Fontes, Ph.D. University of Massachusetts Author, Child Abuse & Culture: Working with Diverse Families ---- Original message ---- >Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 13:45:55 -0800 >From: bounce-7664010-6833644list.cornell.edu (on behalf of Poha Kane ) >Subject: Re: two questions about common labels >To: Child Maltreatment Researchers > >If by the first term you mean also "parentified," yes, it has been >around a long time. I've not heard it misused though. Not as I >understand the term, that is to say that a child is seen as taking on >some parental functions with either or both siblings and parents. > >I include in "parentified," though have not heard it from others, >workers using a child to communicate with non English speaking adult >family members on family issues. I think we can be as guilty of >misusing a child in this way as a dysfunctional family might do for >other reasons. > >Where I most encountered (I am currently retired and have been for 7 >years) misuse by over generalization of "attachment disordered," is to >apply it inaccurately to a behavior cluster that may well be diagnosed >as something quite different - PTSD, for instance. The issues of a >failure of a child to attach normally are far too broad in scope to >umbrella with such terms - and it's not specific enough to really be >useful in data gathering. I hope it's not appearing anywhere as data. > >Either term you offer, but especially the latter, can effect data and >skew supposed case outcome results, such as claiming a failure to >resolve issues when in fact they weren't the presenting problem - >which may or may not have resolved. > >As one might presume, the terms, and others less exact as well, are >often used sans formal diagnosis. I would hope our data comes from >collecting diagnoses by the proper agents/vendors and not simply case >notes alone. Or at least that researchers are careful to point out >the fluid nature of such terms, and their inexactness. Most do so I >believe. > >Kane > >On 1/15/11, D F MCMAHON wrote: >> >> Two labels that are endemic in child welfare cases are "parentification" and >> "attachment disorder". These have been around for quite awhile. The source >> is usually a CPS investigator, a caseworker, or a therapist, sometimes a >> foster parent, once in awhile an adoptive or step-parent. My question is not >> really specific, but wondering about your thoughts as to use and/or misuse >> of these labels. >> Thanks, >> Sheri McMahon >