The Role of Parentification and Family Climate in Adaptation Among Immigrant Adolescents in Israel


Requests for reprints should be sent to Sophie Walsh, Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, 52900 Ramat Gan, Israel. E-mail:


Parentification has been defined as the familial interactional pattern in which children and adolescents are assigned or assume roles and responsibilities normally the province of adults. Two studies were conducted to examine the role that parentification takes in the context of immigration with regard to its impact on adolescent adaptation. In study 1, a comparison between 70 adolescent immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) in Israel with 70 nonimmigrant Israeli adolescents showed higher levels of spousal role taking among the immigrant adolescents. In the case of the immigrants, spousal role taking was seen to involve positive relationships with both parents (as opposed to with only one for the nonimmigrants) and to be associated with better coping with stressful events. In study 2, the association between the incidence of parentification and family climates was explored among 123 adolescent immigrants from the FSU in Israel. Of the three climates found, the optimal cohesive independence-oriented family climate showed a higher incidence of parentification (parental role taking, spousal role taking, parental role for siblings, and nonspecific adult role taking) as opposed to within the unstructured-conflict-oriented and control-oriented family climates. These results seem to strengthen the position that optimal adolescent development following immigration involves a combination of enhanced familial relatedness and assumption of responsibility within a climate that allows age-appropriate autonomy.