"I was more her Mom than she was mine:" Role reversal in a community sample

Ofra Mayseless, Kim Bartholomew, Antonia Henderson, Shanna Trinke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family processes associated with childhood role reversal and related adult outcomes were examined in a community sample (128 adults) using a semistructured interview exploring family, friend, and romantic relationships. Women showed stronger role reversal than men, and role reversal was stronger with mothers than with fathers. Role reversal of women with mothers was associated with parental divorce, neglect, and rejection. Only parental divorce was consistently associated with men's role reversal. Role reversal was not associated with current symptoms for either men or women, nor with attachment orientations for women. Three patterns with distinct family dynamics and outcomes-guardians/protectors, pleasers/compliants, and spousified-emerged from qualitative analyses of 16 women who experienced high levels of childhood role reversal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Attachment
  • Family
  • Parentification
  • Relationships
  • Role reversal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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