Toward Understanding the Child's Experience in the Process of Parentification: Young Adults' Reflections on Growing up With a Depressed Parent


  • The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research: the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO).


This article reports on a qualitative study with 21 young adults who grew up with a depressed parent. We examined how young adults make sense of their childhood experiences of parental depression and how their retrospective reflections help us to understand the experiences of children and the processes of parentification. Participants recounted that their childhood consisted mainly of actions in the service of family well-being. At that time, they reflected on their own experiences only rarely. In adolescence, there was an evolution toward a greater consideration for oneself and a repositioning within the family. In the discussion, we explore the therapeutic implications of this study—and in particular—the meaningfulness of silence in the family process of parentification.