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"I liked you better as a sister than a mom."
Lilo, Lilo & Stitch

A side effect of Parental Abandonment that occurs when the trope applies to siblings. The first born takes over the role of parent—enforcing the rules, setting curfews, delivering lectures, and bringing home the paycheck. They may be doing the parents' job, but they are still a brother or sister to everyone else, and will probably get into conflict with their siblings over how much power they should have and how much respect they deserve, depending on the ages of the younger ones, and the status of the original parents (i.e. missing/dead/villains...). The parents may have even specifically asked their eldest child to Take Care of the Kids.

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On a positive note, the sibling-parent is usually within the Competence Zone, and will be understanding if you have to Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World. If they get Trapped in Another World themselves, they'll expect to be fully responsible for their charges' safety, even to the point of Heroic Sacrifice. Becoming a sibling-parent often makes a child Wise Beyond Their Years.

Truth in Television, although it's more common on the frontiers of civilization and when families were larger and more spread out in ages. (Westerns make use of this a lot.) Sometimes the oldest kid of a one-parent family tries to take some responsibility off the parent too.

If this takes place on a society-wide level, it's a Teenage Wasteland: the strongest of the survivors, where "strongest" usually equals "oldest", end up taking the younger survivors under their wings, forming pseudo-familial units in which the older kids are the "parents" and the younger ones are "children". Smaller-scale versions include the plane crash that strands a family while killing or incapacitating the parents and the Neverland scenario, in which a bunch of kids have run away from home or are otherwise isolated.

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In some rare instances, there are still adults around but children get drafted as a Parental Substitute because of some combination of importance, dangerousness and difficulty. This is generally because only those of "pure heart" or some such can do it, and adults are too corrupted. Thus, this variant is most likely to have the cut-off be puberty. It's kind of the opposite of the Puberty Superpower, with plenty of angst as the kids age towards the cut-off and/or their ability to perform their job wanes with increasing age. In some cases, it's just that the adults are too incompetent to handle the job or the family is just that big, and thus the eldest children end up having to back up Mom and Dad.

This trope can also apply to adults. For instance, when someone childless (likely a man) finds out of the blue that he has a child he didn't know about. This usually can range from the traditional accidental conception ("I'm your daughter/son.") to the scifi clone. Another way would be when a woman finds out she is pregnant and has to step up to being a parent whether or not she is ready for it yet. Still another, when a swinging bachelor/bachelorette uncle/aunt is unexpectedly saddled with guardianship of a nephew/niece.

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This trope is almost always present in a Badass and Child Duo.

Compare to Big Brother Instinct and Family Man. If this trope is a Klingon Promotion to parent, the promoted will also be a Self-Made Orphan. Playing House is when it's just a game kids play.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In Captain Atom #56, it is revealed that after his father left when he was five, and his mother became an almost totally nonfunctional alcoholic, Nathaniel's sister Peggy Ann took care of him and raised him, even though she was only a couple of years older than he.
  • In Fantastic Four, Susan "Sue" Storm was this to her brother Johnny when they were growing up.
  • In Impulse, Impulse's friend Carol is being raised by her adult brother after their parents died in an auto accident.
  • Superman usually serves this role for his younger cousin Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl -or Power Girl-, who arrives on Earth after losing her parents. Ironically, in the Post-Crisis comics Kara was born earlier and she expected to raise her baby cousin when she arrived on Earth, but her ship was delayed and she was put in suspended animation; when she crash-landed on Earth, Kal was nearly twice her age.
  • Empress in Young Justice gets "promoted" to parent when her parents are turned into babies and she has to take care of them.
  • The older kids in Runaways act as parents (or at least supervisors) for Molly and later Klara.
  • In Batman's absence, Dick Grayson is forced to take both his mantle and responsibility for the Bat-Family, specifically his little adoptive brother Damian.
    • And since Damian and Bruce clash like crazy, Dick was in this position even after Bruce got back (at least until the reboot).
    • Bruce also sort of had this with Tim after Tim's father (his only remaining parent by that point) died. Tim's last name was even changed to Drake-Wayne. Needless to say when Bruce went missing for awhile Tim... had issues.
      • Bruce not doing this enough is one of the reasons Jason turned out like he did.
    • Harper Row is this for her teenage brother Cullen after the two run away from their abusive father.
  • Rory and Pandora Destine of ClanDestine were raised by their brother Walter and sister Florence (posing as their uncle and grandmother respectively). This seems to be standard procedure for the Destines; one of the grown-up siblings mentions that he was also raised by an older brother, and even when the family's Disappeared Dad returns, he doesn't take over as the kids' guardian.
  • In Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, Billy (who's about ten) serves this role for his younger sister Mary—the two orphans live alone, using Billy's Older Alter Ego whenever they need a fake parent. (Note that this is different than most Shazam adaptations, where the pair are the same age and both are eventually Happily Adopted by the Bromfields.)
  • The Incredibles: A villain named Larry claims to have raised two brothers and three sisters.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Dangerverse series, Hermione's parents are killed by Death Eaters when she's still a baby, and she's raised by her big sister, Danger.
  • Basically the core of the story in Family, following Yakko Warner as he tries to raise his siblings.
  • A bit of an odd example in The New Retcons, in that no parent actually died, but when Elly started to go insane, she denied that April was ever her daughter and threw her out. Since April was still a minor, this could be applied to her older brother Michael, who took her into his family. A lot more plausible when John gives up on convincing Elly that April's their daughter, effectively disowning her.
    • Later, they're introduced to their half-sister, Claire, and Claire ends up becoming more of a mother figure to April than Elly ever was, even when she was sane. Was made kind of awkward when April said she could have been her mother: there's a 22 year age difference, since Claire was the result of a Teen Pregnancy and April was a late in life baby
  • Averted in When Paths Cross where the older child left the then-fifteen-year-old main character in an orphanage after the death of their parents rather than even try to take care of her.
  • In most Cats fan fictions, Mungojerrie is often the protective one (Rumpleteazer often written as the younger sibling) and it is a fan WMG that Macavity killed their parents.
  • In Power Girl fanfic A Force of Four, Superman tried to serve as Kara's father upon his cousin's arrival, but she couldn't regard him as her own father.
  • Kristoph parented Klavier for a while after their parents died in a car accident in Dirty Sympathy. It obviously didn't end well since Klavier immediately left home when he was 15 and they both hate each other by the time the fic takes place.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion Kaji becomes his little brother's guardian after Heishiro returns from Instrumentality. He thought Heishiro would want nothing with him, but his brother makes clear that he refuses to live with strangers.
  • In Kill la Kill AU, we have an eleven-year old Satsuki, with her mother living at a special care facility and her father working constantly. She does note how difficult this can be, especially with the thought of her sisters being taken away from her. However, sadly, the stress of this is what turns her into an Ill Girl.
  • In Supergirl fic Survivors, Kal and Kara’s parents die on Krypton and Kara becomes her baby cousin’s mother de facto upon crash-landing on Earth.
    The mention of her mother almost took her back, but she shook her head. There was no time. Kara was a practical girl now. She had to be. No more playing, no more crafts, no more classes... no more anything. She was a mother for all intents and purposes. A 13 year old homeless mother on a strange world with no food.
  • "Aen'rhien Vailiuri": Jaleh Khoroushi mentions to the Aen'rhien's tactical officer that she and her older brother Ehsan ended up as backup parents just from the fact that she was the second of five kids.
  • In Daisy Dursley Harry's aunt and uncle announce that their infant daughter is a "freak" after she exhibits accidental magic and make Harry responsible for her care. After his cousin Dudley worries that he might be classed as a freak someday too, the two boys make a blood oath that they and Daisy will always be a family of their own.
  • In The Equestria Chronicles, Celestia is as much a mother figure as a sister to Luna, at least at the start.
  • An adult example in To live again, a Criminal Minds fanfic: Alex and Annie were in an aunt/niece-like relationship in Annie's childhood and when they're reunited they just think of it as a chance to friendship... Then somewhere along the way Alex becomes Annie's Mama Bear and Annie decides that Alex is the best mom she could ask for. And you don't mess with Annie's mom. Ever.
  • In the The X-Files fanfic The Truth is out there... and it hurts, Sally takes Samantha's raising in her own hands after they escape from the colonists' prison. They call each other sister, but Sally is more of a mom to her.
  • In Vapors Aiko Uzumaki has a lot of bitterness (at the village) due to feeling that she had to raise Naruto instead of responsible adults. Later, Sasuke discovers that one of his cousins was secretly having an affair, and he has a now-orphaned, academy-student cousin in the village.
  • This happens with Satsuki and Nui (mostly the former) in Cellar Secrets. In light of Rei's suicide, their mother being committed and living in the care of a mental hospital before later on dying of a terminal illness, and the fact that their father died years ago, the sisters have to play a caregiving/parental role to their Wild Child little sister Ryuuko. Unlike some examples, they do have some help in the form of Aikurou on the side.
  • A popular Fandom-Specific Plot in the Undertale fandom, affectionately nicknamed "Baby Bones", involves this as a backstory for Sans and Papyrus. It does have some canon evidence to go by—they live with each other and have no other relatives to be seen, they apparently just showed up in town by themselves one day at an unspecified age, and due to Papyrus' immaturity, Sans still performs parental tasks for him such as nursing his belief in Santa and reading him bedtime stories. In some stories it's Played for Drama and used to speculate about their past and the hardships they'd face in such a situation, while in others it's played purely for its sheer adorableness
  • A common occurrence in A Song of Ice and Fire fanfics where the Targaryens win in Robert's Rebellion and Prince Rhaegar becomes king. In addition to his own young children, he also has to raise his siblings; he's 25 at the end of the war, but his brother Viserys is 8 and his sister Daenerys is a newborn. Granted, the situation is a lot easier for him to deal with since he's a king.
  • Queen of the Swarm: Brian gets legal custody of his little sister Aisha to get her out of their home before their parents screw her up.
  • In the Aftermath of the Games universe, the human version of Shining Armor and Twilight's parents were killed by a Drunk Driver when the latter was thirteen. Shining, since he was in his mid-twenties during the time of the accident, took custody of his sister. His fiancee, Cadance, decided that she wanted to help raise Twilight, so they both agreed to tie the knot down at the courthouse instead of doing the big wedding they were planning before the tragedy struck so she could adopt Twilight as well. The two of them agreed to hold off on the wedding and having kids of their own until Twilight graduated high school so they can make sure she spends her teen years in an supportive environment.
  • Yin And Yang Series: Lupapa is perhaps the most egregious example of this trope, having taken care of his seven siblings since her parents' death. Frannie Martin also underwent this towards her younger siblings Oliver and Maggie.
  • In the Harmony and Valor universe, the human versions of Twilight Velvet and Night Light died in a semi-truck accident four years ago while on a family road trip. Shining Armor and Cadance have been taking care of Sci-Twi ever since then. During "A Daughter Not His Own," Sci-Twi lets them know on Patents' Day how much she appreciates all that they have done for her and asks if she can call them "Mom and Dad" just for the day, and they pull her into a group hug crying Tears of Joy. Shining Armor even calls her their "beautiful daughter".
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Brock is this as in canon, although this time much more seriously since his parents are dead in the new timeline.
  • In Son of the Sannin, Itachi becomes this to Sasuke. Shisui also becomes this to an extent, given that in this story he's the oldest surviving Uchiha.
  • In The Outside, we have this happen three times to Ryuuko in light of father's death and her mother's decade-long absence.
    • Earlier, we have Satsuki, who is Ryuuko's guardian, however, this is deconstructed as she's, agoraphobia and poor health aside, no more mature than Ryuuko is and isn't too capable a guardian, which gets Ryuuko removed from her care.
    • Later, Shiro starts to play this role and he really plays this to a hilt when he tends to give Ryuuko lectures in much the vein a father would.
    • Periodically, we have Nui playing something of this (despite being younger) because, due to being sheltered, Ryuuko is more naive than she is.
  • Percy Take the Wheel is a Harry Potter fanfic where an accident kills Molly and puts Arthur in a coma, leaving Percy to raise the younger Weasleys. (Bill and Charlie are supporting the family financially, but this means staying at their jobs overseas.)
  • In the Dusk to Dawn fan novel series, this is deconstructed in Catwoman's backstory. Selina had to be a mother figure for her sister Maggie after their parents died, and was way too wild and irresponsible to be up to the task. Realizing this, Selina left her sister behind in an orphanage where she believed Maggie could have a normal life. She didn't. The Corrupt Church funding the orphanage took Maggie shortly after, and raised/brainwashed her into their borderline superhuman warrior.
  • In To Try For The Sun, 12-year old Celestia and 8-year old Luna were orphaned in King Platinum's war. Celestia works as a grave-digger to support her family.

    Films — Animated 
  • Big Hero 6: Although Tadashi and Hiro live with their Aunt Cass, Tadashi makes a special effort to fulfill the role of big brother and father figure. It's most obvious when he's distressed over Hiro's botfighting hobby and wonders what their dad would say in that situation. This trope also applies to Aunt Cass who took both boys in when their parents died.
  • Nani of Lilo & Stitch is Lilo's older sister, who became her legal guardian after their parents died. The two still argue like sisters. Lilo even says, "I like you better as a sister than a mom." Despite knowing about Lilo's mission to find more than 600 aliens scattered about Hawaii, Nani would probably prefer if her little sister had a safer hobby. Nani has forbidden Lilo and Stitch on at least one occasion from using the hovercars that Jumba gave them as a Christmas gift because it's not safe. Additionally, the first film serves as somewhat of a deconstruction of this trope, as it deals with Nani struggling to be a competent guardian and raise Lilo to the satisfaction of Social Services shortly after their parents' death. "Struggling" is really the only way to describe it, and it's heartbreaking watching a loving and well-intentioned sibling having her little sister taken away so soon after losing both of her parents. The sad thing is, it's surprisingly realistic because Nani is nineteen...
  • Yakko in the Animaniacs movie Wakko's Wish. He leans toward this trope in the series too, but since the movie takes place in an Alternate Universe where the Warners are actual orphans - unlike in the series, where they never had parents, but were created by an animator drawing them – it's especially visible there.
  • Elsa in Frozen goes through this with Anna after their parents die. Even though she's barely present in Anna's life for the three years between their parents death and her coronation, isolating herself out of fear of her ice powers, she still takes her responsibility as Anna's legal guardian seriously, as shown when she vetos her marriage to Hans.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sarah Biederman in Deep Impact is forced into the role as her parents outfit her with carrier, diaper bag, and baby so she and Leo can get safely to high ground before the meteor strike floods and kills everyone at ground level. Sarah's parents don't even bother trying to get to high ground themselves. They just stand there and gaze at each other with resigned affection. That's kinda justified, in that the water was already coming, and the only reason they had the opportunity for her to get to safety is that her boyfriend just showed up on a bike looking for her and they couldn't exactly fit four grown people and a baby on a single bike.
  • Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead: When the elderly babysitter unexpectedly dies, the two oldest siblings are left to manage the household. Sue Ellen has to get a job after their money runs out, while Kenny has to stay at home to take care of the three youngest siblings. Sue later calls out Kenny on behaving pretty irresponsibly himself by ignoring his new role.
  • In 30 Days of Night, the parents of Eben and Jake Oleson are never seen or even mentioned, so it's very likely that Eben and his grandmother have shared custody of his teenage brother for quite some time. Once the vampires arrive and their grandmother is killed, he becomes this trope in full-force.
  • Peter and Susan Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, after their parents send them to the country and away from London during World War II. They not only serve as surrogate parents to younger siblings Edmund and Lucy, but try to parent each other. This trope is present in the book, but especially played up in the 2005 film version.
  • On Our Own
  • The Proposition strongly implies that Arthur raised his younger two brothers largely by himself. This makes him a far more effective Anti-Villain.
  • Lyddie in Saving Sarah Cain. Interestingly there is a special quirk. Sarah is the official guardian of an Amish family despite being an "Englisher" (non Amish). However Lyddie is jealous of her, quite justifiably because she is obviously a supremely competent mother whereas Sarah is selfish (which is of course why she needed to be saved) and unfamiliar with Amish ways.
  • In Super Mario Bros., Mario briefly mentions he had to raise his brother Luigi after their parents died. This isn't the case in the games where they're twins and their parents are never mentioned.
  • Jane's Promotion To Parent in 27 Dresses is the explanation for her Extreme Doormat tendencies.
  • In Finding Neverland, George, the eldest of the Llewelyn Davies boys, starts taking more responsibility for his brothers as the story goes on, causing James Barrie to comment on him becoming an adult. Fortunately for him, his mother is still alive, albeit ill, and James is also looking after him and his brothers.
  • Love Actually has Sarah's problems in regards with her ill brother after her parents died. Also to a lesser extent, Daniel is left to raise his stepson while trying to deal with his own grief of his wife's death. While he started out as a parent, it was previously a less active role.
  • In Real Steel, Charlie Kenton is a deadbeat dad who ends up meeting his son Max for the first time when Max's mother dies and Charlie agrees to look after him for a few months before Max's aunt takes him in. At first, Charlie only agrees to take the kid to get a pay-off from the aunt's wealthy husband while they go on vacation in Italy, but over the course of the film and their restoration of an old robot that they use for fighting, Charlie and Max gradually become closer.
  • The oldest brother in the Japanese film Nobody Knows has to care for his three younger siblings after father and mother abandoned them.
  • In Winter's Bone, 17 year old Ree is charge of taking care of her siblings as Dad's gone and Mom's sick.
  • Alexandria in The Fall begins to see Roy as a father figure after her own father's death. In Roy's story, the Black Bandit's daughter starts to call him "Daddy", which eventually angers Roy.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen for her sister, due to her mother's depression and general ineffectiveness.
  • Lucy for the title character in Martha Marcy May Marlene, since it's implied both their parents are dead.
  • In What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Gilbert's narration describes his older sister, Amy, as more like a mom, and indeed she does most of the household duties; their actual mother, Bonnie, is morbidly obese and rarely moves from the couch, while their father killed himself years before. Gilbert himself seems to be financially supporting the family and takes up most of the responsibility for watching Arnie, their mentally disabled brother. The film ends with Bonnie's death; after a one-year Time Skip, Amy and youngest sister Ellen are moving to Des Moines together with Gilbert and Arnie possibly planning to follow.
  • Joy: 8-year-old Az basically becomes the mom after her mother dies in childbirth. She looks after baby Jargal when their father is away, she keeps the family bankroll under her mattress, and she lectures her father about budgeting and keeping track of expenses.
  • Benny & Joon the title characters parents have died some years before, leaving Benny to raise Joon, who is a mentally Ill Girl. He takes his role very seriously but also objects to options that may have been helpful to Joon, such as sheltered accommodation or her relationship with [[Cloudcuckoolander Sam]] partly because he doesn't want to lose her.

    Puppet Shows 

    Radio 
  • in The Space Gypsy Adventures Gemma has been raising her brother Damien since they escaped from a Federal Alliance prison camp following their family's collective arrest for gunrunning. She often acts maternal towards him (unless he's being a mischievous little brat) and has been mistaken for his mother more than once.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the backstory of Warhammer 40,000, after the Emperor's incarceration in the Golden Throne, his son Roboute Guilliman was essentially promoted to be the new Emperor until Guilliman himself was mortally wounded. Guilliman also assumed the role the Emperor had to the other Primarchs, attempting to tell them how to behave, how to lead their legions, and what to do in general, though he was arguably unsuccessful in this latter role.
  • In Bliss Stage, the Authority Figure is literally the only person over 18 still conscious. Since they usually manage to stay awake through a combination of "drugs, stress, and mental illness," they're not the ideal parents.

    Theatre 
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Marie has been mothering Tony, who is her older brother and now middle-aged, since their real mother died back in The Old Country. She even tries to exercise a sort of Parental Marriage Veto, but she can't stop Tony from marrying Rosabella.
  • In Dead End, Drina has been struggling to raise her younger brother Tommy and keep him out of trouble since their mother died. She still dresses like a little girl, despite being in her early twenties.

    Video Games 
  • Advanced V.G.: Satomi's parents died years ago, in a car accident, leaving her to fend for herself and her kid brother, since they have no other living relatives. But she barely earns enough for them to get by, due to how costly her brother's treatments are, which is why she's set her sights on the VG Tournament's prize money.
  • In Fahrenheit Lucas casually mentions that his older brother Marcus "took care of me after our parents died". Sounds sweet enough until you see their grave stones and figures out that Lucas was around eighteen when his parents died (ten years later he has a former girlfriend that used to live with him in his huge loft).
  • Tales Series:
    • In Tales of Symphonia, Raine, sister of Genis, takes the parental role; at the start she only has a vague memory of her mother and Genis doesn't remember anything. They do find their mother near the end, but she's insane and nursing a doll whom she named Raine. Raine (not the doll) ends up in a parental role for the group of children sent out to save the world, along with Kratos, the mercenary hired for the job; of course Kratos pulls a Darth Vader.
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Van acts like a parent to Tear when Hod is destroyed. Also, although they aren't actual siblings, Guy acted as both an older brother and a parent to Luke, as he is the one who taught Luke how to walk/talk/etc. after he was found at Choral Castle.
    • Chester from Tales of Phantasia was promoted to a father figure for his little sister Ami after their parents died... up until she dies as well, together with other denizens of Toltus.
    • In Tales of Xillia 2, Julius serves as a father figure for his younger half-brother, Ludger after Julius killed Lugder's mother, who was the younger sister of Julius's mother, in self-defense. Julius was extremely careful to keep all of this hidden from their Archnemesis Dad.
    • Tales of Berseria: Celica had to take care of her much younger siblings Velvet and Laphicet when their parents died. When Celica died, Velvet had to step up, but in that case she didn't have to fill the role completely since Celica's husband Arthur was still around to help.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, the Falcoknight Juno raised her sisters, the Pegasus Knights Thite and Thany, after their Ilian mercenary parents were killed together in the battlefield when Juno was a teenager and the others were little girls.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has Fiora, who raised her sisters Farina and Florina; Uther, who had to raise his younger brother Hector in addition to ruling Ostia; and Ninian, who's been taking care of her little brother Nils.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has Tethys, who raised her younger brother Ewan alone until she joined Gerik's group and he went to study with Saleh). There's also Forde, who became a knight both to follow his Disappeared Dad's example and provide for himself and his little brother Franz (who would become a knight as well).
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has Oscar raising his little brothers Boyd and Rolf in Greil's group.
    • Going even further back in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War are half-brothers Arvis and Azelle of Velthomer. Azelle's mom was one of the maids working for Arvis' dead mother and died some time ago, and their father Lord Victor went the Spurned into Suicide way at some point, so Arvis took upon himself the duty of helping raise young Azelle. Arvis was less than an ideal parent, though, since Azel presumably dies along with the rest of Sigurd's army at the end of the game's first half when Arvis betrays and slaughters all of them. Other sources, however, hint that Azelle was spared by Arvis, but died of illness and grief some time later.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening:
      • Morgan, the Avatar's Kid from the Future, can have an older brother or sister depending on who the Avatar marries (If a female Avatar marries Chrom, or if a male Avatar marries a first generation girl who also gives birth to another Kid from the Future). If this happens, in the Bad Future the parents will die and the Avatar will become the Vessel for Grima, leaving little Morgan in the care of his/her older brother or sister, barely a teenager themself.
      • This is also heavily implied with Lucina. She's Chrom's daughter from a Bad Future and the first born of the Future Children, and as said above all of his playable wives have their own canonical child who's younger than her, meaning Chrom will typically father two children no matter who he marries (unless said wife is the Village Maiden). It's outright stated in all of Lucina's supports with her younger sibling that Chrom told her to protect them; if either Morgan or Cynthia is Chrom's kid, either of them says in their dad support that they have next to no memories of him (though for different reasons), further evidencing this.
      • Emmeryn is also this for her younger siblings Chrom and Lissa; Lissa explains to the Avatar that she never really knew her parents because they died when she was too young to remember them.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, the Nohr siblings barely survived in a Deadly Decadent Court. The two eldest surviving kids, Crown Prince Xander (mid-to-late 20's) and Princess Camilla (early 20's), ended up taking parental roles towards their half-siblings Leo (mid-to-late teens) and Elise (early teens) and their adoptive sibling the Avatar (also mid-to-late teens, though older than Leo).
    • In Fire Emblem Gaiden and its remake Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows Of Valentia, the villager Atlas has been raising his little siblings on his own. When they're kidnapped by Grieth, Atlas joins Celica's group to rescue them.
  • The Resident Evil series has Chris Redfield to his little sister Claire, as it's stated in the Japanese companion novel that their parents died in a car crash years ago. Like many examples this realistically subverted as Chris given new responsibilities was overprotective of Claire since he trained her in firearms and combat training from a young age and apparently bossed her around frequently. Claire only expressed her struggles with Chris’s parenting much later in life in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 showing even as full grown woman she still has some bitterness about it.
    • The first Gun Survivor has Lott taking care of his little sister Lilly once their parents are zombified.
  • Averted in Final Fantasy IV (DS version), where Golbez/Theodor started to be a good older brother to Cecil, but Zemus started his mind control and Golbez proceeded to kick Cecil's ass to the curb.
  • Allegretto, from Eternal Sonata, takes Beat in as his adopted little brother.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning decides to raise Serah on her own at fifteen, when their mother dies (their father died when the girls were very small). There's an almost total lack of resentment, and the sisters care deeply about each other. Interestingly, Serah worries plenty about Lightning too, and with good reason.
    • Lightning gets it again around the end of the first disc, when Hope joins her when she tries to go solo, in the process proving how weak and defenseless he really is. She's visibly displeased—at least at first.
  • Because everyone in Touhou is either Conveniently an Orphan or subject to Parental Abandonment, but there still seem to be a fair number of siblings, even though there are no parents to go with them, this happens in a few places.
    • Remilia Scarlet is head of the Scarlet Devil Mansion... even though she looks (and often acts) like a 10-year-old. The actual maintenance of the house is handled by the human meido Sakuya (at least, as long as her merely human lifespan lasts), Remilia is functionally boss / dictator of the household. Of course, perhaps her most important duty is keeping Enfant Terrible little sister Flandre Scarlet from throwing a temper tantrum that accidentally ends the world in an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
    • Satori Komeiji heads the household, although her younger sister, Koishi, often gives herself a Poke in the Third Eye to give herself a functional Invisibility Cloak and live essentially as a hobo, stealing food and trespassing for shelter. Regardless, the household has many "pets" that have grown up into full-fledged humanoid youkai that live with Satori in the Komeiji household, although the events of Subterranean Animism imply she wields little control over her "pets" or "family" if one of them can make a crack at World Domination without her noticing.
  • In the first and second generations of Pokémon, Blue's sister Daisy seems to be assuming the role of acting mother for him in lieu of missing or deceased parents as she is several years older than him and looks after the house with no other adults present.
    • It's stated in FireRed/LeafGreen Versions that Professor Oak lives with them, and even in the first generation, his lab is right next to Blue and Daisy's house. He probably cares for them.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, this ends up happening to Terra when she comes across a town in which all of the adults have died.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, Dunban is this to his younger sister Fiora, their father having died in a Mechon attack long before the events of the game, and their mother passing away not long after.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the Dwarf Commoner Origin implies, the Player Character was effectively raised by their elder sister Rica due to their mother's alcoholism.
  • In Dragon Age II:
    • Hawke became the sole breadwinner after the death of their father, three years prior to the game. Most of Hawke's actions for the first part of the game are simply trying to find a way to provide for their mother and their two younger siblings, the Half-Identical Twins Bethany and Carver.
    • After the death of Varric's father a few years after their exile to the surface, Bartrand took over as head of House Tethras and busied himself with running the family business, while Varric ended up being left to raise himself and look after his alcoholic mother.
  • Art of Fighting:
    • Ryo Sakazaki looks after his little sister Yuri after his mother's death and his father left the family for a while, which would explain a lot about his massive Big Brother Instinct towards her.
    • King looks after her Ill Boy little brother Jean. It is not known what happened to their parents, but she takes care of him and enters fighting tournaments in order to pay for his medical bills and treatment.
  • In The Last of Us, Henry is this to his brother Sam.
  • The pre-generated Newson family in The Sims 2: Apartment Life have this; two teens have to raise their younger siblings (two children and two toddlers) after their parents' death. note 
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona:
    • A particularly interesting example of this trope appears in the Persona 2 duology, in that both of the parents in question are alive, present in the home, and neither are antagonists. Tatsuya Suou's older, police sergeant brother Katsuya got the upgrade—although flashbacks in Innocent Sin show him in a quasiparental role even before this—after their father was released dishonorably from his capacity as a police officer and simply...wasn't interested in raising his children. Their mother (who's only ever mentioned in the side material) is technically there, but entirely ineffective and as unconcerned about her children's lives as her husband, leaving Katsuya to act as the family's sole breadwinner and his brother's caretaker all on his own.
    • In Persona 5, Makoto Nijima's older sister Sae looks after her after their father's death. While Sae cares for Makoto, the fact that Sae doesn't think much about Makoto's relatively idealistic worldview and desire to follow in her father's footsteps (since Sae blames her father for getting himself killed), and is secretly jealous of Makoto causes friction between the sisters.
  • Vetra Nyx in Mass Effect: Andromeda raised her younger sister Sid after their father mysteriously disappeared. After her loyalty mission, it becomes clear that Vetra is so accustomed to being Sid's mother that she doesn't actually know how to be her sister now that Sid is approaching adulthood.
  • In One Shot Calamus takes care of his younger sister, Alula after their mother died.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Corpse Party, Seiko Shinohara's mother disappeared several years ago. As a result, she acts like a surrogate mother to her three younger siblings while their father works. After Seiko dies in Tenjin Elementary and is erased from existence, her younger brother Yuu is this instead.
  • In the Katawa Shoujo, the lawyer Akira Satou was this to her blind sister Lilly after their parents moved to Scotland and left them behind until the demands of her job force Lilly to start living on-campus at Yamaku. She's quite bitter toward her parents leaving her with Lilly, and thinks she didn't do as good of a job as she could, as Lilly ended up learning how to be independent.
    Akira: ...Expecting a nineteen-year-old to be a mother for a blind child. It's ridiculous.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney had Chief Prosecutor Lana Skye, who has been taking care of her teenage sister Ema (13 years younger than her) since the two of them were orphaned. Of course, it's Lana's love for her little sister which leads to her being blackmailed by her boss, Damon Gant, into covering up a crime. Ironically, that leads Ema to hire Phoenix....
    • Judge Justine Courtney in Investigation 2 adopted her cousin's son after he was orphaned.
  • Happens in Crescendo, with Ayame Sasaki taking care of her adopted younger brother Ryo (the male lead) after their parents die in an accident when Ryo was in junior high and Ayame was in college. She drops from college and becomes an Office Lady to support them both, taking care of Ryo devotedly and neglecting her own needs. They can potentially fall in love.
  • Mira Kagami in Tokimeki Memorial is revealed to be unable to join clubs because she's the eldest of five children in a poor household, her father died, and she has to help her mother to take care of her much younger brothers. All of the times Mira cancels dates with the Plyer Character? One of the kids is an Ill Boy and she must take care of him. She's good at sewing? She fixes the kids's clothes to help her mom. She doesn't let the Player Character walk her home? She doesn't want anyone to find out she's not the Rich Bitch she pretends to be at school.
  • In True Love Junai Monogatari, Ryoko Shimazaki was raised by her older brother Tadaki ever since their parents died when she was a child. He's also her manager, as she's the local Idol Singer; Ryoko notes that Tadaki has dedicated all of his adult life to make her the best idol in Japan, but has become obsessed with her career in the last years. If the MC wants to romance Ryoko, then it's up to him to help her deal with her manager/tutor/brother.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Santa or Aoi Kurashiki was promoted to parent after his parents were killed in an accident. He's been looking out for Akane since he was 8. It's basically the reason he's The Lancer to Akane when she's acting as Zero - he knows that if her plans fail or never come to fruition then she'll die.
  • Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow: Saori's potential boyfriend Ritsu was orphaned at 10 years old and had to take care of his 6-year-old little brother from then on. Then his brother was killed by the Nagasaki Vigilantes for learning their secret identitites, and the deeply hurt Ritsu has come to loathe them for it.

    Web Comics 
  • Syphile of Drowtales is ordered by her adopted mother Quain'tana to raise her younger sister Ariel. She proves to be a terrible mother, receiving absolute hatred from Ariel as she grows up, because Syphile is a completely terrible and excessively cruel person, who beats, insults, starves and otherwise abuses Ariel throughout her early childhood. Drow culture in general expects the elder daughters to step up and raise their younger siblings to prove their maturity before starting their own families.
  • Namir Deiter
    • Snickers after Mrs. Namir runs away (although she wasn't exactly June Cleaver to begin with), especially after Twix comes along.
    • Also, after Blue runs away, she's found and raised by her half-sister Roxanne.
  • Vandi, of What Birds Know, is forced to care for her twin baby brothers after their mother goes into a coma after a difficult childbirth. The story makes it very clear that this is what changed her from a carefree girl into the responsible, serious person she's become.
  • When their parents died, Sara from Alone in a Crowd was forced to put her life on hold to look after her sister Faith.
  • In Homestuck, Dave's Bro plays it straight while John's Dad is simply a Single Parent, with no insight into the rest of their respective families. Later, thanks to a lot of complicated Ectobiology Shenanigans and Weird Time Shit, we learn that Dave's Bro is his biological clone-father, John's Dad is his genetic half-brother and his grandmother is actually his biological clone-mother, and John is unwittingly responsible for cloning both the parents and the kids just before they all got launched throughout time and space to become those very people.
  • Strays: Meela's backstory —until her brother got killed.
  • Wooden Rose: Lillian has been a second mother to Nessa.
  • In Dubious Company, Gary is this to his "little" brother Marty, from what little is known about them. Nonspecific Evil Mage #157675 learned the hard way what kinds of powers Gary gained from the role.
  • Jae Gu of Girls of the Wild's became the sole supporter of his two younger siblings after his father died and his mother abandoned them all out of stress. This is not a happy arrangement, as he works desperately to keep his siblings fed and cared for well also still going through school. He absolutely despises his mother for abandoning them and he fears that if she returns his siblings will easily forgive her and accept her back.
  • The basic plot of Step Monster is that, out of desperation to avoid being split up by the child services, Suzette and Mikey Miller recruit Matilda, the monster who lives in Mikey's closet to pretend to be an aunt of theirs to adopt them. Since the alternative for Matilda is to watch them leave and have to go back to living with her parents in the monster world, she agrees. Things develop from there.
  • Emma in Namesake did have her father around after her mother left when she was a child, but she still pretty much raised her younger sister Elaine afterwards.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Part of Onni's backstory. The list of charges includes both a younger sister and a younger cousin; the latter may have been orphaned at the same time as them.

    Web Original 
  • Brennus: Basil's sister Amy has been taking care of and supporting him since their parent's died. Granted, she pays the bills by being one of the world's most dangerous supervillains, but she still loves her brother.
  • In Thalia's Musings, twins Apollo and Artemis became this to each other when Zeus took them from their mother. Artemis appointed herself Apollo's legal guardian.
  • Bunny has been this to Sweetheart and Speckles, Eglantine, and, of course, Madgie. Needless to say, understandably so, she was rather unwilling to take on these responsibilities but, with her younger cousins, she seems not to mind. However, this is because Madgie is wanted fugitive, while said little cousins are not.
    • Similarly, in Toki and Doki's backstory, the former played this role, when their parents died. Later, we have Jinx and Spin playing this role to Toki, especially since they've thawed her out of the block of ice she was frozen in.
  • In the toy lines, Barbie has largely Invisible Parents who only exist in books. It's assumed her two younger sisters live with these usually-unseen parents. In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, however, Chelsea and Skipper clearly live with Barbie.
  • Volume 5 of RWBY reveals that Yang basically raised Ruby by herself due to Taiyang not being around often after Summer's death. Yang also states that Ruby couldn't even talk at the time, meaning Yang herself was no more than four when she started.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Snake is like this to Bear, Duck, and Balloon since their father is never on-screen. He keeps them from getting into too much trouble.
    Bear: Face it, Duck. Without Snake, we'd be all dead.

    Western Animation 
  • During the first season of Transformers Animated, Bulkhead and Bumblebee seemed to have a sibling relationship with Sari. After her father disappeared, they started moving into more of a parental role—or at least they tried.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara took on this sort of role in looking after her family after her mother Kya was murdered. A notable case, since Katara is actually the younger sibling. Even when she and Sokka leave the South Pole, she becomes the Team Mom. Her brother Sokka even highlights this at one point in Book 3, talking to Toph about how whenever he tries to picture his mother's face, Katara's is the face he sees.
  • The Legend of Korra: Mako took care of his younger brother Bolin while the two of them were growing up on the streets, and is still fiercely protective of him.
  • A unique example in Steven Universe—the title character is the Half-Human Hybrid son of an alien Magical Girl Warrior, being trained by his mother's old teammates. Their attempts are spotty but loving. Steven's father, Greg, did raise him until recently and is still involved in his life, but decided that he needed to stay with the Gems in order to learn how to use his powers. (The fact that Greg Lives in a Van may have also contributed.)
  • Their parents are alive and well in Danny Phantom, but Jazz relegated herself as the "parent" to Danny for a number of years. Fearing that her parents were too incompetent and obsessed with their ghost hunting that would in turn traumatize her naive, scared younger brother, Jazz served as a crutch and guidance to ensure his growth. In some ways it worked, but half the time he's irritated with her too-mature behavior. It works out in the end when Jazz realizes that she underestimated her parents' love and devotion to their children and that Danny's doing a fine job standing on his own two feet. With it, she, too, learns to let go and enjoy her given age.
  • On Invader Zim, Dib sometimes seems to feel this way towards Gaz, since their father is always working and their mom may or may not have ever even existed. Fanon tends to exaggerate this a bit, however; for the most part, Gaz is self-sufficient, and Dib seems to know it.
  • When Goliath in Gargoyles (the "rookery father" of the Manhattan Clan) goes missing, his Number Two Brooklyn, is forced to take up Goliath's leadership responsibilities.
  • Though it's never mentioned what happened to their parents, Sue Storm on Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes is definitely this to Johnny.
  • The Daria website describes Casa Lane as the house where siblings Jane and Trent "were raised. By each other." It's not entirely true, but their parents are usually off in some foreign country and their older siblings (all moved out by the time the show takes place) are all dysfunctional in some way, leaving Jane and Trent alone to try to stabilize each other. (Trent is older, but Jane is probably the more responsible of the two.)
  • In ReBoot, Dot takes this role to Enzo. Naturally it ends after Enzo's Year Inside, Hour Outside Time Skip, rendering him physically older than Dot. Enzo's clone gets the original and Dot as surrogate parents, but later gets his real dad back (sort of).
  • In Adventure Time, Finn was adopted by Jake's parents, who later died, and Jake watches out for Finn, although Jake is the Funny Animal version of a Manchild (a Dog Puppy?) and they mostly act like best friends and equals rather than a younger brother and a much older brother. In one episode, Jake makes an odd comment that his ability to sense when Finn is going to cry is like a "mother-daughter" thing.
    • Simon Petrikov as well, after he found a young Marceline in the ruins of a city in the aftermath of the Mushroom War.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, it's heavily implied, and confirmed by Word of God, that Applejack's parents are dead. Applejack thus takes this role for her younger sister Apple Bloom, while oldest sibling Big Macintosh seems to take it for both of them.
  • Young Justice:
    • M'gann and Gar consider themselves "blood siblings" after she saves his life with a Super Human Transfusion. After his mom dies during the Time Skip he moves to Mount Justice with her.
    • "Misplaced" is sort of a worldwide temporary example: all the adults in the world disappear and we see teenagers rounding up and trying to care for all the younger kids.
  • Somewhat similar its live action counterpart, the animated Punky Brewster becomes a de facto parent to Glomer, the magical creature who is stranded from his homeland within a rainbow.
  • In The '70s' Saturday Morning Cartoon Devlin by Hanna-Barbera, the main character and local Badass Biker Ernie Devlin has had to raise his teenage brother Todd and pre-teen sister Sandy in the circus they live and work in. According to some flashbacks, their dad was a highway motorcycle patrolman who was killed in the line of duty.

    Real Life 
  • In several rapidly developing Southeast Asian cultures, such as Vietnam, as parents work for longer and longer hours to support their large families, the eldest children are expected to act as surrogate parents to their younger siblings while their parents are absent. This is common to all cultures where the firstborn son is considered to be second in status only to the father—many, if not most, place the firstborn son above the mother in the family hierarchy, while still maintaining the tradition of utter respect for one's parents—but is especially prominent in countries that have until recently been considered Third World. This is due to the rapid economy growth and increased cost of living resulting in a need for parents to work for longer and longer hours.
  • There's quite a bit of Sub-Saharan Africa where the current parental generation has been severely depleted by HIV/AIDS leaving many households headed by the very young or the very old ... and given that life expectancies in Sub-Saharan Africa aren't all that great, the very young tend to get handed the ball.
  • This can also happen in the western world, where one family has a lot of kids and the parents are too busy to look after each of them individually.
    • One of the most notorious examples are the Duggars, who have 19 biological children. Although they say they are involved with the kids' lives, the Duggars have gone on record that each of their children is paired with an older sibling who basically acts as their mentor/parent. It's understandable, considering Jim Bob works and Michelle is perpetually pregnant and bed-ridden.
      • The most egregious example occurred at an airport. They allowed their (then) three year-old to travel to the bathroom by himself. When he (SHOCKER) got lost, he cried for/ran to his oldest sister for comfort when found and seemingly wanted nothing to do with his parents.
  • This is what gave Herbert Gmeiner the idea to found the SOS Children's Villages: His mother died when he was young and his father had to work very hard and couldn't take care of the family, so his older siblings, especially his oldest sister, took over the role of parents for the younger ones. This experience of family bonds and family love, even when parents are absent, was what inspired the SOS Children's Villages concept, which differs from other foster-care concepts in various ways, including in that siblings are supposed to be kept together by all means possible.
  • Genghis Khan, while second of several children, supposedly teamed up with his younger full brother to ambush and kill his older half brother after their father was killed, because he couldn't accept being subordinated to this half-brother when he became head of the family, according to steppe tradition. Apparently the brother died with dignity, and thereafter young Temujin was undisputed head of the little clan, although his father's various wives hung around for years.
  • Eddie Rickenbacker: Father died when he was 13. He quit school and went to work to support the family. Got in on the ground floor of automobile manufacturing (his job was cleaning the garage), took correspondence classes in mechanics and engineering, went on to become a race car driver, the American Ace of Aces in World War I, Medal of Honor winner, and basically all-around badass.
  • Given that the Gilbreths had twelve children (technically eleven, but Mary was always counted out of respect), the family worked under a system in which the older children were responsible for overseeing the younger ones. Since the parents were pioneers in the field of motion study and work saving (and rather successful ones at that), the systems set up pretty much worked perfectly. After their father died, the oldest four children (Anne, Ernestine, Martha, and Frank Jr.) split the various household responsibilities between them while their mother went out to give lectures.
  • Stephen Brookes helped his family flee from the Japanese in World War II. And he wrote a book about it.
  • Psychological studies have shown that there is a certain pattern in "problematic" families (such as families in which the parents have major problems like alcohol / drug abuse, mental health problems, etc): The first/oldest child is the "hero" of the family, the one who takes care of younger siblings, the parents and every-day problems, the youngest child is the "comedian/sunshine" of the family, who distracts the other family members from their problems and the other children in between (if there are more than two children) are the ones who're either the "troublemaker", or the "quiet/easy" child who doesn't make trouble at all. Interestingly enough, the roles of the younger children can vary (a child other than the youngest can be the "sunshine", for example), but the role of the oldest is pretty much always the "hero".
    • "Parentified" children can actually result in a bit of an issue when a family of children is taken into the foster system. A six year old who has basically been acting as the adult her whole life is not always going to take kindly to being told to go to bed and that Mommy will take care of the siblings.
  • Casts of players tend to form themselves into pseudo-families, usually (but not always) the director, male or female, as Team Dad and an older or at least Wise Beyond Their Years actress as Team Mom. If the players in these roles have siblings in the cast, it'll cros into this.
  • The patron saint of Ecuador, Saint Mariana de Jesus de Paredes y Flores, was the youngest of eight kids from a high-class family. Mariana's parents died when she was just 7 years old, so she was raised by her older sister Jerónima and her husband Cosme de Miranda. In fact, Mariana's mystical activities happened almost exclusively in a small room located inside Cosme and Jeronima's household.
  • Nani's father left the family when he was 5, his mother left when he was 12. His older brother Paolo Roberto became a father figure to him. By Nani's confession, Paolo taught him everything he knows, including how to play football.
  • From 2012 to 2015, actress Shanelle Workman-Gray had to be the caretaker of her little sister Ariel Winter, after their mom Chrisoula Batista-Workman's Stage Mom behavior went too far.


Alternative Title(s): Promoted To Parent

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