Ethnic differences in the developmental significance of parentification

Tamar Y. Khafi, Tuppett M. Yates, Suniya Luthar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Using an ecological framework, this 2-wave longitudinal study examined the effects of parentification on youth adjustment across the transition to adolescence in a high-risk, low-income sample of African American (58%) and European American (42%) mother-child dyads (T1 Mage = 10.17 years, T2 Mage = 14.89 years; 52.4% female). Children's provision of family caregiving was moderately stable from early to late adolescence. Emotional and instrumental parentification evidenced distinct long-term effects on adolescents' psychopathology and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Ethnicity moderated these relations. Emotional and instrumental parentification behaviors were associated with predominantly negative outcomes among European American youth in the form of increased externalizing behavior problems and decreased parent-child relationship quality, whereas emotional parentification was associated with positive outcomes among African American youth in the form of increased parent-child relationship quality, and instrumental parentification was neutral. These findings support a multidimensional view of parentification as a set of culturally embedded phenomena whose effects can only be understood in consideration of the context in which they occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-287
Number of pages21
JournalFamily Process
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Adolescence
  • Ecological theory
  • Ethnic differences
  • Parent-child relations
  • Parentification
  • Psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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