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The 5 MAIN Ways That Large/Very Large Families are Unjust, Even Inhuman to Oldest/Older Children
Becoming ADULTS Early
The STATUS of OLDEST/OLDER Children in Large/Very Large Families
Oldest/older children in large/very large families(6 and more children per family) are oftentimes grouped as the oldest in their families. As the oldest, they have very high expectations placed upon them. There are spoken and unspoken expectations that they are to assist, even at times being the adult in the family. They are often adults at a time when other children are enjoying an unencumbered and normative childhood. They never get a chance to be normal children as with each birth of a succedent sibling, they are expected to assume greater adult and/or parental responsibilities, losing what very little childhood they had.
Typical oldest/older children are expected to assume adult roles and responsibilities quite early in life. Many parents of large/very large families make their oldest/older children be adults before they are emotionally, mentally, and psychologically ready. It is the oldest/older children who are saddled with onerous responsibilities earliest of the large family birth orders. To put it more bluntly, oldest/older children in large/very large families have the most responsibilities of all birth orders. The situation of many oldest/older children in large/very large families is akin to being Cinderella but without the fairy godmother and the prince. In this hub, I will discuss the 5 main ways that large/very large families are unjust, even inhuman to oldest/older children. Those 5 ways are: (1) having no individual value; being valued only in relation to others, (2) experiencing and enduring very differential, even disparate and unequal treatment in comparison to their siblings, (3) assuming most, if not all of the parenting duties,(4) being the sacrificial, cast aside, and even cast off child, and (5) being thought of an adult and not needing parental attention, care, and even affection.
1. It's NOT About YOU, It's About THE FAMILY
1 Being Valued Only in Terms of Others, Never Themselves
Oldest/older children in large/very large families are never considered nor valued for their own and unique attributes and characteristics. They are not even considered to be even individuals in their own right. They valued only at the behest of others in their families. In the large/very large family environment, oldest/older children are viewed as useful commodities by their parents and siblings. They are valuable to their families when something has to be done and when others need them for one reason or another. They are conveyed familial messages that their worth is contingent upon what have they done for their parents and siblings.
Oldest/older children in large/very large families, more than most, are expected to subvert any sense of individuality and self for the good of the family. They are told their individuality means naught and that the needs of the parents and siblings are far more important than their individual needs, wants, and desires. In the average large/very large family, the lives of oldest/older children are seldom, if never, their own. Their lives are mandated for their parents and siblings and they usually answer this calling. They may absorb this inculcation that they are only significant and worthwhile when they do for others and not themselves. Some may even adopt a self-abnegating attitude that they are insignificant, even nothing in themselves and that they only live for the purpose of others.
There are some oldest/older children who use their service to their families as a pretext to get the attention, care, and even love that they seldom receive. They feel that when they are doing for their parents and siblings, they are noticed and held in high esteem. They may even feel that they must be worthwhile because their parents and siblings need and depend upon them so much. Few oldest/older children may even use these as a leverage as flaunt their superiority. They even go as far to contend that they are the most important ones in the family and if it were not for them, everyone and everything will be chaotic. They assert that it is THEY who keeps the family together and everyone had better know this.
However, once their usefulness is no longer needed, oldest/older children in large/very large families are routinely cast aside by their parents and ignored by their siblings until they are needed yet again. They are there but yet are not there. Their status have been relegated to not being noticed until it is necessary and conducive to the parents and siblings. Apart from that, they are considered to be almost or totally on their own. They are not considered to be individuals worthy of parental love and attention or even of consideration in themselves but are only given when they do for family.
2. Different &......................VERY Unequal
2. Experiencing VERY Differential Treatment by Their Parents
Oldest/older children in large/very large families are treated very differentially by their parents. This differentiality is not in the positive sense at all. In fact, this differentiality can quite negative, even harsh. Very stringent expectations are placed upon them by their parents. They are held to an extremely high standard as to how to act, behave, and even be. They are furthermore granted very little or no quarter when they fail. Many parents of large/very large families take it as an affront if their oldest/older children if they miss the particular familial mark or fall below familial expectations. They maintain that their oldest/older children should have known not to be less than perfect in their eyes. Some can be quite unforgiving towards their oldest/older children for missing that familial mark.
Oldest/older children in large/very large families are oftentimes corrected disproportionately for offenses that their younger siblings at similar ages. They are expected to know better and to be perfect or near as perfect as possible. They are expected to be the standard bearer and example setter for their younger siblings. They are furthermore expected to be their parents' right hand in terms of managing the other children in the family. They must be that superhuman child who must always be tough, strong, and mature. After all, the younger siblings look up them as to what they should do and how they should act. They must be what the younger siblings aspire to so they had better be the best and nothing less.
Oldest/older children in large/very large families must man or woman up very early in their lives. They are expected to act as adults instead of being the children and adolescents they are. If they act age appropriate, they are quickly, even sternly admonished by their parents to stop being immature and grow up. To be normal children and adolescents are foreign, even unheard luxuries to them. If they exhibit normal childhood and adolescent behavior, it is quickly quashed by their parents. They must be dependable, even responsible and displaying such behavior is deemed antithetical to being dependable and responsible.
3. The REAL, Unsung Parent
3. Assuming Most, If Not ALL Parenting Duties
Being the oldest/older child in a large/very large family and parenting younger siblings go hand in hand. It is not uncommon for oldest/older children in large/very large families to assist or having assuming most if not all parental duties and responsibilities regarding their younger siblings. Parents of large/very large families cannot effectively and efficiently raise a large number of children by themselves. That endeavor is either impossible or near to impossible to do. Parents of large/very large families oftentimes are emotionally and psychologically stretched to the limit and beyond raising their children.
Now since parents of large families cannot raise a large number of children by themselves, they need some type of assistance. That is where oldest/older children come in. It is their regular duty to parent their younger siblings in part or in full. It is oftentimes an unspoken expectation, even obligation for them to partially or entirely raise their younger siblings. Parents of large/very large families realize that they cannot do the job of raising a large number of children by themselves and feel that it is the job of their oldest/older children to pitch in and assume some parental responsibilities. After all, the former contend that the latter is mature enough to be assume parenting duties.
The phenomena of parentified children is commonplace, even rife in large/very large families. Many oldest/older children assume the bulk of parenting duties from middle childhood on. Since they are the oldest in their families, it is expected that they assume adult duties and such duties include parenting younger siblings. There are even parents of large/very large families who find the rigors of parenthood to be quite harrowing so they abdicate most if not all parenting responsibilities to their oldest/older children as they feel that the latter can handle the job more effectively than they would.
Many oldest/older children in large/very large families spend the bulk of their childhood and adolescence parenting younger siblings. They are oftentimes the real, even unsung parent to their siblings while their parents fade into the background. It is not unusual for parents of large/very large families to leave the parenting duties to their oldest/older siblings. They continue having children, knowing full well that it is not them to have to endure nor bother with the rigors of parenthood, all they have to do is give each succedent child for their oldest/older children to raise. Many oldest/older children childhoods and adolescence are forfeited because they spend such formative years raising younger siblings instead of have a normative childhood and adolescence. Many of them were thrust with parental responsibilities at a young age that they never want children as adults. They had more than enough parenting duties already.
4. Sacrificed, Cast Aside, & Even Cast Off
4. Being Sacrificial, Cast Off,and Cast Aside Children
Oldest/older children in large/very large families are the sacrificial child. They are considered more as part of the family unit and less as individuals. They are further considered to be the example for their siblings. They have a very strict leeway as to how to behave. They have far fewer leeway because as the oldest/older, they have to establish behavior parameters. Their parents expect, even demand that they be on their very best behavior with very little room or none for failure or mistakes. Many parents are far less tolerant of their oldest/older children's rebellions and related childhood and adolescent shenanigans. They feel that so much is at stake and if such occurs, it would disrupt, even destroy their families. What most parents consider to be part of normal childhood and adolescent behavior/experimentation, parents of large/very large family view such behavior as inexcusable in their oldest/older children.
Such parents maintain that their oldest/older children ought to know better to indulge in what is considered a normal rebellion and other related shenanigans. To the former, the latter are acting irresponsibly and are setting a less than positive example for their siblings. They even see such behavior as an affront to their family paradigm. It is not unusual for such parents to disassociate and disown, even ejecting them from the family because they feel that the oldest/older children are bad, even rotten apples who will influence their younger siblings to adopt the same or similar behaviors. They believe that it is best that the so-called "offending" oldest/older children go for the good of the family. They are not about to help, understand, nor discuss any contentious/problematic issue with their oldest/older children. They are of the school that such should have never happened in the first place.
Oldest/older children children are regularly and frequently dethroned, even cast aside at the birth or each succedent sibling. They know that they will never have their parents' full attention as there are many siblings competing for such attention and the attention will go to the children deemed most worthy and needy. They know that they are not nor will they ever be such children. So they are put on the proverbial back burner so to speak. They feel that their parents never have time for them nor believe that they are important enough for the former to spend time with them. In their mind, other siblings are more worthy and important than they are while they are insignificant in their parents' purview. In essence, they have ceased to count in that manner.
5. C'mon Now, YOU'RE Too Old For That
5. Seen as Adults, Not Needing Parental Attention, Care, and Even Affection
Oldest/older children in large/very large families are on their own emotionally and psychologically very early. Their parents believe that since they are the oldest of their many siblings, they really do not need them so much, if at all. The latter contend that the former are old enough not to be under them and are quite capable of being left to their own devices. Oldest/older children in large/very large families are oftentimes thought as adults although they are still children. However, their parents fail to realize that they are still children who need, even crave parental attention, care, and even affection.
Many parents of large/very large families believe that their oldest/older children really do not need them very much. It believed that the latter do not need them so much, if not at all. They even feel that their attention, care, and even affection should go to the youngest children who need such care more. They also feel that their oldest/older children are far too old for them to give attention, care, and even affection to. They even consider it immature, if not infantile behavior for their oldest/older children to require parental attention, care, and most of all affection. They maintain that younger children require such attention, not older children.
In many large/very large families, oldest/older children are oftentimes give less parental attention and care than their younger siblings. They even receive less parental affection than their siblings. They are seen as adults and it is contended that they really do not need such parental displays. It is believed that parental displays of affection towards them are unnecessary and they are fine without it. Some parents of large/very large families may argue that giving attention, care, and affection to their oldest/older children are considered mollycoddling and spoiling them. They are of the school that oldest/older children as adults should be tough and learn not to be lean on and expect so much from them as there are other more needy children in the family.
Many oldest/older children feel that they were not given the attention and love that they needed. They are starved for normal parent-child contact and interaction. However, they have been cast aside and seen as adults who should be independent of such parental displays. They oftentimes internalize this, becoming their own parent. Some may shut down emotionally and psychologically altogether, become emotionally and psychological cold. Others deprived of parental care and affection, look for such elsewhere and oftentimes fall for the first person who gives them the attention and care they need.
The large/very large family construct is very unjust, oftentimes inhuman to oldest/older children. They must become adults, assuming adult roles far before they are ready to so. They never really fully experienced an unencumbered childhood and adolescence. Their formative years were spent doing things that should have done by adults. They were never children nor adolescents in the strictest definition.
© 2015 Grace Marguerite Williams