Parentification: counselling talk on a helpline for children and young people

This chapter investigates counselling interactions where young clients talk about their experiences of taking on family responsibilities normatively associated with parental roles. In research counselling literature, practices where relationships in families operate so that there is a reversal of roles, with children managing the households and caring for parents and siblings, is described as parentification. Parentification is used in the counselling literature as a clinician/researcher term, which we ‘respecify’ (Garfinkel, 1991) the term by beginning with an investigation of young clients’ own accounts of being an adult or parent and how counsellors orient to these accounts. As well as providing understandings of how young people propose accounts of their experiences of adult-child role reversal, the chapter contributes to understanding how children and young people use the resources of counselling helplines, and how counsellors can communicate effectively with children and young people.