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Impact of Parentification on Long-Term Outcomes Among Children of Parents With HIV/AIDS


  • This paper was completed with the support of National Institute of Mental Health Grants 1ROI MH49958-04 and MH 02050-01, and National Institute on Drug Abuse grant P01-DA 01070-33. The authors thank Gisele Pham and Sonia Johnson for their assistance with manuscript production.


Stein, Riedel, and Rotheram-Borus reported in 1999 that early parentification predicted maladaptive outcomes of more emotional distress, substance use, and conduct problems among adolescents of parents with HIV/AIDS (PWH) 6 months later. The current study assessed the adolescents (N=213) 6 years later to assess whether there were continuing negative effects of parentification, or, rather, if there were some positive outcomes. Although the premature assumption of parental roles had negative effects in the short term, we hypothesized that such skills may have been adaptive in the long run, especially in the case of adolescents with major stressors in their lives, including dying or ill parents, impoverished environments, and family instability. We found that early parentification predicted better adaptive coping skills and less alcohol and tobacco use 6 years later. In addition, early parentification was not associated with later emotional distress and dysfunctional parenting attitudes, including expecting role reversals in their own children.