When the child becomes the adult: An IPA-study on role confusion

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Liv Kirkeby Andersen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the childhood experience of role confusion with a parent. Six women, who grew up acting as their mother’s primary source of emotional support, were interviewed about their childhood experience. Method: Interviews were semi-structured and the data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. Findings: The first part of the interview was about the informants’ childhood perception of role confusion. The central positive themes were feelings of closeness and confidentiality with the parent, and the negative themes were about feeling a weighty responsibility, experiencing transgressive behavior and having to set aside their own needs. The second part of the interview was about the informants’ retrospective perception of their childhood. Three out of six informants had experienced a change in perception from child to adult, but the remaining three had a consistent perception. However, there was a definite tendency to view their childhood’s role confusion as negative in adulthood. The third part of the interview was about the perceived consequences of role confusion. The central negative perceived consequences were mental illnesses, and a lack of contact with one’s own feelings. The positive perceived consequences were personal strengths like empathy and insight, and making a conscious effort not to repeat their parent’s mistakes. Discussion: The study debates different aspects of the identified themes, and compares them to established literature.
Conclusion: The study concludes, that these themes give a detailed insight into six women’s experience of role confusion, which can also be suggestive of the mother-daughter role confusion in general. Underexposed facets were revealed, that needs further research: The possibility of a non-friendly version of role confusion, as well as one-way confidentiality and ambivalence as primary characteristics in role confusion.
Publication date5 Aug 2019
Number of pages91
ID: 308648979