Why It IS Wrong,Even Abusive to Make Oldest Children Parent/Raise Children That They DIDN'T Have

The Role of the Oldest Child in the Family

Oldest children are seen as the reliable, responsible, and mature ones in their families. They've a certain amount of awareness, knowledge, & experience as to what's right & wrong. They're furthermore deemed to be trustworthy.
Oldest children are seen as the reliable, responsible, and mature ones in their families. They've a certain amount of awareness, knowledge, & experience as to what's right & wrong. They're furthermore deemed to be trustworthy.
Oldest children can be depended upon from time to time to perform common familial tasks which frees parents to do other things. They also enjoy doing such tasks as they make them feel capable, worthwhile & grown up; they also give them mastery.
Oldest children can be depended upon from time to time to perform common familial tasks which frees parents to do other things. They also enjoy doing such tasks as they make them feel capable, worthwhile & grown up; they also give them mastery.
Oldest children based upon their birth order ARE expected to mature faster. Very high, even strict standard are set for them w/little or no room for veering off course. They're chastised, even punished for exhibiting normal age appropriate behavior.
Oldest children based upon their birth order ARE expected to mature faster. Very high, even strict standard are set for them w/little or no room for veering off course. They're chastised, even punished for exhibiting normal age appropriate behavior.
Although oldest children are mature & responsible, they're CHILDREN nevertheless. They're entitled to enjoy a normative, unencumbered childhood like other children do w/o being inundated w/excessive & often age inappriopriate responsibilities..
Although oldest children are mature & responsible, they're CHILDREN nevertheless. They're entitled to enjoy a normative, unencumbered childhood like other children do w/o being inundated w/excessive & often age inappriopriate responsibilities..
There're parents who believe & assert that their oldest children should be able to handle any type of responsibility that comes their way. They refuse to see their oldest children as children but instead see them as secondary, even informal adults.
There're parents who believe & assert that their oldest children should be able to handle any type of responsibility that comes their way. They refuse to see their oldest children as children but instead see them as secondary, even informal adults.

The Oldest Child in the Familial Scheme of Things






Oldest children in families are viewed as the responsible, dependable, and reliable ones. After all, as the oldest in their particular families, they have a certain amount of awareness, experience, and knowledge as to what is wrong and wrong. They also possess a level of ethical cognizance. They are viewed by parents to be more mature than the other children in the family. They are considered to be trustworthy and capable of handing the more complex and difficult familial tasks which can free them to do other familial tasks.



Oldest children can be depended upon from time and time to assist their parents in everyday familial activities and tasks. They want and even enjoy exhibiting their maturity in being their parents' helpers and/or assistants. This participation makes them feel capable, good, responsible, worthwhile, and in charge. Such activities and tasks give them a level of mastery. By performing such activities, they feel like worthwhile contributors to their families and also gain a measure of independence.



Oldest children are expected to mature faster based upon the fact that they are older. They also have very high, if not exacting standards placed upon them in terms of actions and behavior. Strict parameters are established by their parents as to what and how they should be and with little or no leeway for veering off course. They are oftentimes chastised for exhibiting normal age appropriate behavior. They are expected to be grown ups although they are children physically and chronologically.



Although oldest children are seen to be mature and responsible, even dependable, they are still children. As children, they are entitled to have a normative, unencumbered childhood without being constantly inundated with excessive and age inappropriate duties and responsibilities. There are parents believing that their oldest children are mature and capable, feel that they can and/or should handle any responsibility that comes their way no matter how daunting, onerous, and overwhelming. They associate being the oldest with being insurmountable.



Many parents of oldest children even consider them to be somehow superhuman and should be able to endure almost anything that comes their way. They oftentimes push their oldest children to undertake responsibilities that they are not emotionally nor psychologically prepared for in addition to not being ready to undertake. They consider the latter to be secondary adults, sometimes even informal primary adults. Some see their oldest children actual adults like them. Many oldest children are forced to take on responsibilities that their parents should be doing.

Oldest Children-Responsibilities & Parentification

Oldest children are conferred adult status in their families. They're treated more as adults than as children. They're often given the bulk, if not all of the familial responsibilities. They're often overburdened w/chores & other responsibilities.
Oldest children are conferred adult status in their families. They're treated more as adults than as children. They're often given the bulk, if not all of the familial responsibilities. They're often overburdened w/chores & other responsibilities.
In many families, oldest children are expected to assume responsibilities that their parents should assume. Some parents even abdicate all their responsibilities unto their oldest children. They feel that it's the latter's obligation to do so.
In many families, oldest children are expected to assume responsibilities that their parents should assume. Some parents even abdicate all their responsibilities unto their oldest children. They feel that it's the latter's obligation to do so.
It's common for oldest children to look after their younger siblings.They do this if their parents have an emergency & want an occasional reprieve.However,THERE'RE oldest children who ENJOY looking after & interacting w/their younger siblings.
It's common for oldest children to look after their younger siblings.They do this if their parents have an emergency & want an occasional reprieve.However,THERE'RE oldest children who ENJOY looking after & interacting w/their younger siblings.

The View of the Oldest Child as Secondary/Informal Adults and Familial Responsibilities


Oldest children are considered in many families to be secondary, even informal adults. They are treated more as adults than they are children. Although they are children physically, mentally, and chronologically, in their parents' eyes, they are adults. As such, many oldest children are given responsibilities far beyond their age and capabilities. It is not unusual for many oldest children to assume the bulk of familial responsibilities. They are oftentimes overburdened with chores and other responsibilities. It is they who must constantly pick and clean up after younger siblings who are capable, depending upon their ages, to pick and clean up after themselves.


Many times parents depend upon their oldest children to do the things they ought to be doing. Some parents even go as far to abdicate all their parenting duties and relegate such duties to their oldest children. Oldest children are seen in many families as unpaid help, maids, butlers, and even nannies. There are parents who feel that it is the duty, if not obligation of their oldest children to assume the bulk, if not all of the familial responsibilities. This responsibility includes looking after younger siblings.


It is common for oldest children to look after younger siblings in some instances. A parent or parents may need to go on an errand and do not want to take the whole family with them so they ask their oldest child to look after younger sibling or siblings. A parent may be sick so the oldest sibling have to pitch in temporarily to assume the familial responsibilities until the parent is well again. Maybe parents want to go out occasionally and ask the oldest child to babysit their younger sibling or siblings. Such things occur sporadically or occasionally. Yes, oldest children look after their younger siblings once in a while and when there are cases of emergency but it is not a commonplace nor everyday occurrence. However, there are some oldest children who actually enjoy looking after their younger siblings and actually enjoy having them around. They actually become engaged and energized interacting with their younger siblings.


Parentification is a Fact of Life in Being the Oldest in Larger Families

Most oldest children look after their youngest siblings on occasion unless they're very close in age.However, there's a marked difference between oldest children looking after younger siblings occasionally & doing this on a consistent basis.
Most oldest children look after their youngest siblings on occasion unless they're very close in age.However, there's a marked difference between oldest children looking after younger siblings occasionally & doing this on a consistent basis.
There're some circumstances when the oldest child must look after their youngest siblings. Parents may have to work, having no one else to look after the latter. Parents even may be disabled & oldest children have to look after their siblings.
There're some circumstances when the oldest child must look after their youngest siblings. Parents may have to work, having no one else to look after the latter. Parents even may be disabled & oldest children have to look after their siblings.
Usually in small & medium families, unless there's an emergency & extenuating circumstances, oldest children don't have to assume parenting responsibilities for younger siblings. Their parents can effectively raise them w/o enlisting them.
Usually in small & medium families, unless there's an emergency & extenuating circumstances, oldest children don't have to assume parenting responsibilities for younger siblings. Their parents can effectively raise them w/o enlisting them.
Oldest children in larger families are expected to assume parental duties & responsibilities regarding their younger siblings. It's expected, that they assume parenting duties. Parentified children are commonplace in larger families.
Oldest children in larger families are expected to assume parental duties & responsibilities regarding their younger siblings. It's expected, that they assume parenting duties. Parentified children are commonplace in larger families.

Parentification and the Oldest Child


Most oldest children look after younger siblings occasionally unless they and the younger sibling or siblings are very close in age. While looking after younger siblings occasionally is one thing, it is different thing entirely to parent and raise younger siblings on a constant basis. In some families, there is an unspoken parental expectation that oldest siblings are to parent and raise their younger siblings. Some parents feel that it is the duty, even obligation of oldest siblings to raise their younger siblings because after all that is what oldest children do.


Only in extenuating circumstances, oldest siblings in smaller families(1 to 3 younger siblings) look after younger siblings because both parents are working and they cannot afford any outside help or there is no other relative by to look after the children. They may look after younger siblings if their parents are disabled or have physical challenges. However, most of the time, oldest siblings in small and medium families do not have to parent and raise their siblings and they are allowed to be normal children and adolescents. Also, in small and medium families, parents can raise each of their children effectively and efficiently without enlisting the oldest sibling to assume parenting duties.

However, in medium large and large/very large families, it is quite daunting even overwhelming for parents to raise each of their children effectively and efficiently by themselves. Typical parents of larger families simply cannot raise a large number of children by themselves. That feat is an impossibility or next to it. That is when oldest children come in. In larger families, oldest children are expected to assume parenting duties to their younger siblings. Many parents of larger families expect that their oldest children will assume parenting duties of one kind or another regarding their younger siblings. They know that they are unable to raise many children by themselves.

Being the oldest child in a larger family and parentification goes hand in hand. The average oldest child in larger families are parentified children. They assume duties towards their younger siblings that their parents should assume but cannot, do not, and/or will not. They oftentimes assume the bulk of parenting and raising their younger siblings. Their parents can find raising a large number of children so overwhelming that they relegated the majority of their duties to their oldest children. They feel that by the fact of their oldest children's ordinal birth order their children are quite capable of assuming parenting responsibilities regarding their younger siblings.

The Ordeal of the Parentified Oldest Child

Oldest children in larger families are given responsibility far beyond their age. They assume adult duties, functions & responsibilities quite early in life. Their formative years are snatched from them. Their childhoods are stolen & lost.
Oldest children in larger families are given responsibility far beyond their age. They assume adult duties, functions & responsibilities quite early in life. Their formative years are snatched from them. Their childhoods are stolen & lost.
Oldest children in larger families are the true definition of  parentified children. They're the unsung & unheralded parents in their families. Their parents oftentimes are merely parents in name only w/little parental responsibilities.
Oldest children in larger families are the true definition of parentified children. They're the unsung & unheralded parents in their families. Their parents oftentimes are merely parents in name only w/little parental responsibilities.
Parenting younger siblings even takes precedence over their academic, intellectual, & related activities. Many such oldest chilidren's academics suffer because they are inundated with parenting younger siblings.
Parenting younger siblings even takes precedence over their academic, intellectual, & related activities. Many such oldest chilidren's academics suffer because they are inundated with parenting younger siblings.
A child's formative years is a time of wonder, exploration & discovery; in essence being a child. His/her formative years shouldn't be spent parenting children. No child has any business parenting siblings.  That 's HIS/HER parents' job.
A child's formative years is a time of wonder, exploration & discovery; in essence being a child. His/her formative years shouldn't be spent parenting children. No child has any business parenting siblings. That 's HIS/HER parents' job.
Many oldest children in larger families are emotionally & psychologically impacted by parenting siblings. They are emotionally, if not mentally & physically exhausted. They also age prematurely from all the stress.
Many oldest children in larger families are emotionally & psychologically impacted by parenting siblings. They are emotionally, if not mentally & physically exhausted. They also age prematurely from all the stress.
Some oldest children in larger families resent their parents for thrusting parental duties on them at a time when they should be enjoying their childhood & adolescence. They even seen their parents as selfish & irresponsible.
Some oldest children in larger families resent their parents for thrusting parental duties on them at a time when they should be enjoying their childhood & adolescence. They even seen their parents as selfish & irresponsible.

The Travails of Parentified Oldest Children

In larger families, oldest children perform functions, tasks, and duties that are far beyond their age. They assume adult duties, functions, and responsibilities quite early in life. Typical oldest children in larger families have little or no normative childhood nor adolescence like their counterparts in smaller families. Their childhoods and adolescence are consumed with parenting their younger siblings.

Typical oldest children in larger families define parentified children. They are the real parents in their families while their parents are just parents in name only. Many parents of larger families are not involved in their children's lives. They do not have that much parental responsibility. Many of them relegate the bulk if not all parenting duties to their oldest children. Oldest children are oftentimes the unsung and unheralded parents in larger families. They parent their younger siblings on a constant basis. Oftentimes, their parental duties take precedence over their academic and related duties. Many oldest children's academics suffer because they are at the beck and call of their parents and younger siblings.

If they have outside interests, hobbies, and activities, those too will fall by the wayside. The most important thing is that they raise their younger siblings. Oldest children are children just like other children. Children are not supposed to be parents. That is an activity for adults. Children are not emotionally, mentally, and psychologically suited to be parents to other children. Adults are supposed to parent children as they are more mature and suited for such responsibility. There are parents who immaturely, irresponsibly and mindlessly have children without considering the ramifications of their actions on the already existing children. But that does not matter at all to such parents. Their main concern is having as many children as THEY want regardless. They do not even concerned as to whether they can adequately take care of a growing number of children and/or if they are capable of doing such. Many of these parents do not worry about this in the least, all they have to do is to give the succedent children to their oldest children to raise.

Many oldest children are emotionally, mentally, and psychologically impacted by parenting their younger siblings. Besides, giving up their childhood and adolescence, they are oftentimes extremely exhausted to the breaking point. They are so busy tending to their siblings that they do not have any time to discover who they are and develop themselves like other children do. Many of them age prematurely because of the enormous and excessive responsibilities thrust upon them at their young ages.

There are oldest children who resent and hate their parents because of their parents selfishness of having more children than children than can be reasonably taken care of. They argue that if their parents are unable to effectively raise a large number of children, then the latter should be mature, responsible, and intelligent enough not have them and pawn them off on the former. There are oldest children who even curse their parents for having so many children that they, not the parents, have to raise. They surmise that if their parents stepped up to the plate and really raised their children, they would have sense enough not to have a large number of children. Some oldest children having more than enough, leave home at the earliest possible opportunity to escape their parentified condition never looking back. Others have been so inundated with parental responsibilities in their formative years that as adults, they do not want any children at all as they have done their parenting duties already.

Conclusion

Childhood and adolescence is a time for children to explore, discover, and find out who they actually are. It is a time of freedom and being as unencumbered as possible. Childhood and adolescence is definitely not a time to assume parenting duties for younger siblings. However, that is the life of many oldest children, particularly those from larger families. It is widely believed by many that it is duty, even obligation of oldest children to parent their younger siblings. To thrust parenting duties on oldest children is irresponsible, even abusive on the part of the parents. They had the children so they should man and woman up to their parental responsibilities. If they cannot raise their children then they should not have had them in the first place. Children should never have to parent children that they did not have.


© 2015 Grace Marguerite Williams

More by this Author


17 comments

mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 18 months ago from Canada

Great Hub. I had to spend many summers babysitting my younger siblings because my parents didn't want to spend money on summer camp and didn't trust them to look after themselves (which is what I did when I was their age), and didn't want to miss work just to take care of them. In highschool it was worse as I had been given the responsibilities and consequences of an adult with none of the rights, and little to no consideration or recognition of my efforts. But I think this is just a parenting problem in general. I really do wish there was more of an effort on the parents part to be, well, parents.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 18 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Exactly, many parents associate oldest childiren with surrogate parents. They feel that oldest children should parent siblings but the latter are THEIR children, not their oldest's children. Parents should be PARENTS!


AMFredenburg profile image

AMFredenburg 18 months ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

Thoughtful and comprehensive. It had not occurred to me until recently just how much responsibility my older sister had in the summers when my parents were both at work and she needed to corral me and my younger sister. (No wonder she hated me!) We were out in the boondocks and in no real danger, but, still, a teenager having to look after two pre-teens was quite a demand. I got beat up a bit

....


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 18 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

It's tough being the oldest in the family. They are expected to mature-FAST. They have no semblance of a normative childhood & adolescence. It doesn't stop there. Even as adults, other siblings GO to them even though they are capable of taking care of themselves. Oldest children have IT HARD all their lives. They GIVE, GIVE, and GIVE in comparison to younger siblings. Younger siblings usually contact oldest siblings when they want or need something. It so sad really.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 17 months ago from Home Sweet Home

i am the oldest child in my family, and i can tell you the pressure being put on is heavier than a big truck over my shoulders


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 17 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Exactly, oldest children go through HELL to put it mildly.


Happy Moment profile image

Happy Moment 14 months ago from The Eastern Bypass

Divorce has been the main cause of this.Stepmums and dads can never be as good as real dads and mums.It makes a child's life look like heal of unending suffering. This also has an impact on their adulthood social life especially confidence


prettypagan 13 months ago

Thanks for a really interesting article.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 13 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Quite welcome indeed.


El Shaddai 2016 profile image

El Shaddai 2016 8 months ago

I have observed parents who make their oldest child responsible for a younger child. I do not agree with this in the least. The parenting responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parents, not on any of the children.

EL


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 8 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

I don't either. Many parents, especially those who have large/very large families do this quite regularly. In typical large/very large families, OLDEST children are THE REAL parents which isn't fair to the children at all. Such children don't know what a real childhood is as such childhood is forfeited due to the irresponsibility & selfishness of the parents. Thank you for stopping by & for your response, it is greatly appreciated.


Happylovejoy profile image

Happylovejoy 7 months ago from Singapore

Interesting insight..I agree that family structure plays a huge part and smaller families with one adult who can afford to pay more attention to the children are better in some ways.

It's just my older sister and I and my parents pay alot of attention to us..and even though my older sister is expected to be more responsible in some areas and look out for me (like making sure I get my turn on the playground slide) , my parents never expected her to sacrifice anything for me or do more. We do the same amount of chores, my mom looks after us (mainly because she's a housewife) and we got to enjoy childhood together..


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 7 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Happy, in small families-oldest/youngest children have a more equal parity in terms of parent-child relationships & expectations. In small families, youngest children are expected to be as responsible & mature(in accordance to their age bracket) like oldest children are.

However, in large/very large families(6 children or more per household, the burden always fall on the oldest/older children. They are the ones who must be responsible, forfeit their childhood/adolescence, & general freedom to be parents to younger/youngest siblings. As I have stated, oldest/older children in large/very large families have childhoods like the winter solstice. While oldest/older children must be adults in childhood, younger/youngest children have a free ride comparably. They are spoiled & even indulged. They have no responsibilities even at all when they should be assuming responsibilities. I have witnessed this myself among my relatives, friends & other associates. Oldest/older children in large/very large families have little/no childhoods while younger/youngest children have E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D ones. It's no wonder that younger/youngest children in large/very large families LOVED being part of a large/very large family while conversely, oldest/older children HATED IT!

Oldest/older children in large/very large families are ALWAYS THE LAST. They are told to place everyone/everybody in the family before themselves. This carries on in adulthood, such oldest/older children always DO WITHOUT, even putting their own husbands & children's needs after that of their younger/youngest siblings who at this stage, ought to be financially independent. I have studied the large/very large family & my mother was the oldest of 10 children so I know what I am talking about here.

Happy, thank you for your commentary. What you have said is so true. Please stop by again.

P.S. It wasn't only my mother but two aunts(one a true aunt & another a first cousin once removed) who were older/oldest children. Their lives were harsh in comparison to my younger/youngest aunts/uncles whose lives were an utter breeze. Even my youngest aunt( first cousin once removed) stated that she got away w/things that her oldest sibling never got away with. My other youngest aunt(true aunt/deceased) never had to assume familial responsibility at all- she literally coasted through life. Extremely unfair situation of the role of oldest/youngest children in large/very large families. That is why I strongly advocate small families where oldest/youngest children have EQUAL/FAIR chances, treatment & parity!


RJ Schwartz profile image

RJ Schwartz 6 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

I live in Mormon country and this practice is commonplace - their religion tells them to have massive families (my wife was in one and the oldest child - her stories are sad) - the older kids are prisoners and always blamed when a younger one does wrong.....


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 6 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

This not only in Mormon families but in typical large families, the oldest children are prisoners/slaves 24/7/365 and ALWAYS blamed for what the younger ones do. This is de rigueur in ALL large families. Thank you for stopping by and for your response.


AF Mind profile image

AF Mind 2 months ago

Great post. As the youngest child myself I could see the role of my bigger sister and how without her I might not be who I am today.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you for your comment.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working