The Positive Effects of Parentification: An Exploratory Study among Students


  • Ruben C.W. van der Mijl Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg; Praktijk voor Psychotherapie Deurne, Deurne
  • Ad J.J.M. Vingerhoets Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg


parentification, empathy, resilience, psychology students, humanities students


The present study was designed to examine the relationship between parentification and choice of education: Psychology versus humanities. Additionally, we investigated the association between parentification, on the one hand, and cognitive and affective empathy as well as resilience, on the other. The rational for this study was the increasing evidence that parentification may not only induce several possible adverse effects but that it can also facilitate the development of some specific positive abilities (e.g., higher empathic skills and resilience).We compared 265 psychology students with 51 humanities students on the variables parentification, empathy, and resilience. Within the group of psychology students, we conducted hierarchical regression analyses on cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and resilience with parentification and possible confounders as predictors.Psychology students reported more parentification experiences in their families than the humanities students, but they did not score higher on empathy and resilience. Among psychology students, parentification was associated with higher resilience and higher cognitive empathy, while there was no connection with affective empathy.These findings partially support the hypothesis of specific mental growth in parentified children.