Date of Degree

9-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Steven Tuber

Committee Members

Denise Hien

Diana Puñales

Benjamin Harris

Eliot Jurist

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology

Keywords

emerging adulthood; parentification; separation-individuation; well siblings

Abstract

Well siblings of children with an illness or disability constitute a population of growing interest in psychological research. Past research suggests that these individuals may be likely to adopt increased caretaking responsibilities, or a parentified role, within the family. However, to date, few studies have examined the experiences of well siblings as they relate to late adolescent development. This study extends the well sibling research to the period of emerging adulthood and examines the degree to which 18 to 25 year-old well sibling and control groups report different levels of parentification and endorse different patterns of adolescent separation-individuation. In addition, this study explores the relationship between two constructs -- parentification and separation-individuation -- that have been linked in theory but rarely, if ever, been explored in research.

T-tests identified that well siblings endorsed increased emotional and overall parentification relative to controls but did not indicate that they differed significantly with regard to patterns of separation-individuation. Hierarchical regression analyses determined that perceived unfairness of parentification predicted problematic separation individuation, and that instrumental parentification predicted more adaptive, but potentially conflicted, negotiation of the separation-individuation process. These results provide evidence for the emotional parentification of well siblings beyond the childhood and early adolescent periods. In addition, this study indicates that parentification is meaningfully related to the developmental tasks of separation and individuation that characterize emerging adulthood.

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