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Oldest Children Who Parent Younger Siblings

Updated on October 22, 2018
gmwilliams profile image

Grace knows birth order dynamics. Children are treated differently based upon their respective birth orders.

Oldest Children are Seen as Responsible, Even Authoritative in the Family


Oldest children are considered to be the most responsible ones by virtue of their birth order. Of all birth orders, oldest children have the most responsibilities placed upon them because it is believed that they are capable of handling them. There are high expectations placed upon oldest children in comparison to their younger siblings who oftentimes have more leeway than they do.


Oldest children are viewed as authoritative by their parents. In many families, oldest children are placed in authoritative positions pertaining to their younger siblings. They are asked to watch younger siblings. They are also told to ascertain that younger siblings don't get into trouble. They even act as mentors and teachers to their younger siblings.


There are parents who see their oldest children as second in command in the family. They rely on their oldest children to help manage the younger children in the family. To them, their oldest children are their right hand in terms of parenting responsibilities. They feel that their oldest children help make their parenting easier than it would be if they parented alone.



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The Oldest Child in the Family

Oldest children are seen as the responsible ones in the family.  They are placed in authoritative roles in relation to their younger siblings.
Oldest children are seen as the responsible ones in the family. They are placed in authoritative roles in relation to their younger siblings.

Oldest Children Placed in the Caretaking Role



Oldest children are the leaders of their families. As the oldest, they are the role models for their younger siblings. They are the ones who guide and instruct their younger siblings. Oldest children are the first ones that the younger siblings look up to as a relatable example to follow. Oldest children care for the younger siblings when parents aren't present. They are the ones who prepare breakfast for younger siblings. They take the younger siblings to school and other activities. They may even take the younger siblings home from school and prepare dinner.


Oldest children are the go-to people for younger siblings when parents aren't available and/or busy. They are the ones that younger siblings can discuss problems with. They soothe younger siblings' tears. They even help younger siblings with their homework and other school problems. Oldest children are seen as very comfortable in the eyes of many younger siblings. The latter see oldest children as more age related hence approachable in comparison to parents who are viewed as less approachable and more ancient being parents.


It isn't unusual for oldest children to assume caretaking roles of one kind or another in relation to their younger siblings. It is quite common for oldest children based upon the fact of their being responsible and authoritative to be in the caretaking position regarding their younger siblings. Oldest children are asked to assume such roles in relation to younger siblings because they are deemed reliable and dependable. In many families, oldest children are seen as the other authority figure after the parents.

Oldest Children in the Caretaker Role

Oldest children assume leadership roles in the family. This leadership is transferred to being caretakers for younger siblings. They are there for younger siblings when parents can't be.
Oldest children assume leadership roles in the family. This leadership is transferred to being caretakers for younger siblings. They are there for younger siblings when parents can't be.

When Oldest Children Raise Younger Siblings


While oldest children assume caretaking roles regarding their younger siblings, they aren't asked to parent nor raise younger siblings. Although they perform a certain percentage of such duties, the parents perform the majority of the parenting duties, leaving oldest children to have normative childhoods and adolescence. Oldest children in such families merely help with the caretaking duties when parents either aren't available or too busy. They may even help in caretaking duties when younger siblings find them more relatable or more age appropriate regarding their problems.


However, in some families, oldest children are relegated to being parents to their younger siblings. This goes beyond mere caretaking duties such as taking them to school, helping with homework, and escorting them to events. These oldest children are full-time parents to their younger siblings. They perform duties which their parents should perform. They are the ones who change their diapers, cook the meals, bathe them, and even raising them. These oldest children are at the call of their parents and siblings 24/7/365.


These oldest children are compelled to be parents at an age when they should be enjoying normative childhoods and adolescence. While many oldest children's caretaking duties are infrequent, these oldest children have caretaking duties on a daily basis. There are parents who consider their oldest children to be free built-in nannies. These parents are of the school that their oldest children are there to care for their younger siblings and nothing else should matter.



When Oldest Children PARENT Younger Siblings

While some oldest children assume caretaking roles regarding their younger siblings infrequently, there are others who are relegated to being caretakers for younger siblings 24/7/365!
While some oldest children assume caretaking roles regarding their younger siblings infrequently, there are others who are relegated to being caretakers for younger siblings 24/7/365!

Pushing Parenting Responsibilities on Oldest Children

There are parents who push their oldest children to raise younger siblings. They maintain that their oldest children, not them, should assume full parental responsibilities for the younger siblings by the fact that the oldest children are older and can handle the situation. Oldest children parenting siblings occurs in all size families-small, medium, medium large, large, and very large. However, the practice of oldest children bearing the bulk, if not all parental responsibilities for their younger siblings is prevalent in large and very large families.


Parents of large and very large families are overwhelmed emotionally, psychologically, and even psychically by the large volume of children that they have. Raising a large number of children by themselves can be a daunting venture. Since they know that they can't properly parent these children alone, they enlist their oldest children to help them parent these children. In large and very large families, oldest children are pushed into being parents to their younger siblings.


There are parents of such families who give birth and subsequently give the child for the oldest children to raise. For example, the Duggars who have a very large family routinely give their infants to the oldest children to parent. Such parents aren't involved in daily parenting of their children. It is common in large and very large families for oldest children to raise younger siblings instead of the actual parents.


In some families not only large and very large, oldest children are seen as the parents in the family. These parents see nothing wrong with oldest children parenting their younger siblings. They feel that they shouldn't have to be parents when their oldest children are present. They contend that parenting younger siblings is the role of oldest children from time immemorial, adding that it is the responsibility of their oldest children to parent their younger siblings.

Oldest Children PUSHED to Raise Younger Siblings

 Some oldest children are PUSHED to parent younger siblings.  It is an unspoken family rule that oldest children SHOULD parent their younger siblings.
Some oldest children are PUSHED to parent younger siblings. It is an unspoken family rule that oldest children SHOULD parent their younger siblings.

Why Must Oldest Children ...........be PARENTS to Younger Siblings


There is an unspoken family expectation that oldest children raise younger siblings. After all, oldest siblings have been parents to younger siblings since time immemorial. In pre-modern and other societies, oldest siblings have parented younger siblings in one form or another. Oldest children have always had responsibilities thrust upon them which includes parenting younger siblings.


Until recently, the brunt of parenting duties regarding younger siblings fell upon oldest children in the family. This was wildly accepted. While people have become more progressive regarding the treatment of children, there are some who still staunchly uphold the premise that oldest children usually raise younger siblings which is nothing to be alarmed about. There are parents who expect their oldest children to bear the brunt of caring for their younger siblings. They maintain that is what authentic families do.


Many oldest children have parental responsibilities towards their younger siblings far before they are ready to assume such responsibilities. They oftentimes must forego their own interests to assume parenting responsibilities. Because they assume the major, if not all, parenting duties, they have no life outside of school and caring for their younger siblings. Their parents feel that it is not their responsibility to raise and care for their children as they have other responsibilities. They maintain that if the children are to be raised, their oldest children will do the job.


There are parents who maintain why should they raise children when there are oldest children available to do the job. They furthermore argue that oldest children are part of the family and possess the necessary maturity to assume adult responsibilities which includes parenting younger siblings. These parents maintain that nothing is more important in a family than looking after each other. They view oldest children parenting younger siblings as a normative part of being the oldest child in a family.


Must Oldest Children be ........PARENTS?

There is an unspoken expectation that oldest siblings parent younger siblings.  There are parents who contend that why should they raise children when their oldest children have the maturity to do the job as well as being part of the family.
There is an unspoken expectation that oldest siblings parent younger siblings. There are parents who contend that why should they raise children when their oldest children have the maturity to do the job as well as being part of the family.

Oldest Children Sacrificing Themselves To.....Parent Younger Siblings


Many oldest children put their own needs and interests last because they are raising their younger siblings. They are at the beck and call of their younger siblings, even their parents 24/7/365. There is no such thing is private or me time as far as these oldest children are concerned. Caring for their younger siblings is first and foremost. It is the family mantra that caring for younger siblings should take complete precedence. It also this same family mantra that raising younger siblings is what oldest children do and should do without complaint.


In one of the parenting blogs, a mother indicated that it was the responsibility of her oldest child to raise the younger siblings as that is what families do. This mother reported that a friend of hers chastised her on this, stating that the oldest child have an individual life outside the family. This mother rebuked the friend, indicating that there is no such thing as an oldest child having an individual life and all individuality should be subverted to the family.


There are oldest children who put their life and other interests on hold raising their younger siblings. It isn't unusual for oldest children to curtail their own relationships and life goals to raise younger siblings. Oldest children are the sacrificial children in the family, constantly foregoing what they want in life in order to raise younger siblings and be there for them. Many oldest children have been strongly inculcated by their parents that they are the ones who must sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their younger siblings. They even are indoctrinated by these parents that they exist for and must serve their younger siblings.


An example of the sacrificial oldest child is Jana Duggar. As the oldest daughter of the Duggars, she has been relegated to parent younger siblings. She has sacrificed her own interests and goals to continue to parent younger siblings. She has no individual life nor interests outside of parenting her siblings. I also had a friend whose oldest sister raised younger siblings. She never married nor pursued her own goals, living as a prisoner of her family.

Oldest Children SACRIFICE Themselves To Raise Younger Siblings

Oldest children oftentimes SACRIFICE themselves raising younger siblings. It isn't unusual for oldest children to forego relationships & goals as a result of parenting younger siblings.
Oldest children oftentimes SACRIFICE themselves raising younger siblings. It isn't unusual for oldest children to forego relationships & goals as a result of parenting younger siblings.

Conclusion

Oldest children are seen as the responsible and authoritative ones in the family by virtue of their birth order. Based upon being responsible and authoritative, oldest children are placed in caretaking roles regarding their younger siblings. While some oldest children are placed in caretaking roles occasionally, there are some who are placed in caretaking roles on a continual basis. These oldest children have to parent and raise their younger siblings.


As a result of parenting and raising their younger siblings, these oldest children are unable to cultivate their own particular interests and goals. They must continue to sacrifice and forego their own needs in order to parent and raise their younger siblings. Siblings shouldn't have to parent and raise other siblings. It is the job of parents to parent and raise their children, not to assign those tasks to their oldest children who are children themselves.


Oldest Children Raising Younger Siblings

Should oldest children parent and raise their younger siblings?

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© 2015 Grace Marguerite Williams

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    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you for your comment.

    • AF Mind profile image

      AF Mind 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      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.

    • RJ Schwartz profile image

      Ralph Schwartz 

      3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      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!

    • Happylovejoy profile image

      Kawai 

      3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      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.

    • El Shaddai 2016 profile image

      El Shaddai 2016 

      3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Quite welcome indeed.

    • profile image

      prettypagan 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for a really interesting article.

    • Happy Moment profile image

      James 

      3 years 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

    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

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

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      4 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      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.

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 

      4 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      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!

    • mrpopo profile image

      mrpopo 

      4 years 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.

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