More than 80 percent of children in economically disadvantaged families are “parentified” children — meaning they have to share the role of parents in a family — a survey by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) and the Children’s Welfare League Foundation showed yesterday.
Eleven-year-old Ling (小羚) lives with her grandmother and three siblings in Greater Tainan’s Jiali District (佳里) after her parents divorced and, despite her young age, she takes on the role of a parent in their absence.
“I wake up at about five every morning, and look after my little brothers and sister when my grandma goes out to wholesale market to get vegetables,” she told a press conference in Taipei yesterday. “On weekends or holidays, I go with my grandma to local markets to sell vegetables.”
When Ling returns from school, she does the chores, cooks, bathes her brothers and sister, and helps them with their homework.
Ling’s case is not an isolated one.
“Kids who have to take on the job of being a parent are called ‘parentified children,’ and it’s surprising for us to find in a recent survey that as many as 80 percent of children in economically disadvantaged families have to act like parents at home,” said Weng Hui-yuan (翁慧圓), director of TFCF’s department of social work.
“Most parentified children don’t feel that they are forced to do the job and most do so willingly, but many respondents told us in the survey that they feel tired, psychologically pressured and hopeless,” Weng said.
The two organizations conducted the survey at the end of last month and they collected 1,071 valid samples from third and fourth graders in economically disadvantaged families across the country.
The survey shows that more than 80 percent of the children not only need to help out with household chores, but that they also take care of younger siblings in the family, while 16.7 percent of the respondents even have to earn money for their families.
When asked about their willingness, more than 70 percent of respondents said they believe they are doing what they are supposed to, while 25 percent said they are doing the job because no one else can help out.
The organizations urged the public to lend a helping hand to parentified children.
“Without the appropriate help, these kids may become autistic, have problems getting along with other people and suffer from low self-esteem, since they feel ‘different’ to their peers and they don’t have anything in common with them,” TFCF executive director Miguel Wang (王明仁) said. “As able adults, we should try to help.”