The phenomenon of spousification: study of a parent-child relationship, when child has a role of surrogate partner ‒ spouse

Lenka Pivodová, Lenka Lacinová


The qualitative research study is focused on conceptualization of the spousification phenomenon. What happens when a child takes responsibilities or competencies of his parent? Under what circumstances did this situations happened? What are the symptoms? And who is active in this relationship – parent/child? The study was designed as a detail analysis of 4 focus groups (8–10 respondents) and 11 interviews by children aged 11–17 years focusing on the disruption boundaries of individual families and influence on the personality of the child and his family. They were organized with children with conduct disorders and with children from general population. This focus groups and interviews were recorded, analyzed and coded in program Atlas.ti. We came to the three characteristics of this phenomenon: categories of spousification (typology of activities in which the child can take over the competences for his parent and thanks to which, under certain circumstances, a partner of his parent), categories of circumstances (mapping of the situations and the circumstances under which they may cause boundary dissolution and the child becomes spouse to his parent), and the extent to which the child is an active agent (the extent to which the child is drawn into a relationship of his parent, and the extent to which a child begins substitute a role of his absent spouse/partner).

(Fulltext in Czech)


spousification, the construct of boundary dissolution, parentification, marital conflict, role-confusion


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