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Promotion to Parent
aka: Promoted To Parent

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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.

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.

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.

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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The whole premise—played for laughs—of Beelzebub. Example of a teenager being deemed the most appropriate parent, but only because his heart is the opposite of pure.
  • Yujiki looks after her little sister Hinagiku in Hayate the Combat Butler, but usually it ends up being the other way around. While this may have been true after their parents abandoned them (and possibly even before), it seems that normalcy has reasserted itself after they get adopted by the Katsura's. Yukiji seems to have reverted to more child-like while Hinagiku is supporting herself and generally not truly caring about her older sister except when it makes her look bad.
  • In Neo Ranga, the eldest Shimabara sister Minami is the caretaker for the school-aged Ushio and Yuuhi; she works at least two part-time jobs and manages her company to provide for herself and her little sisters. This has given her a Money, Dear Boy mentality, and she uses Neo Ranga itself for monetary purposes.
  • In Kore Wa Koi No Hanashi, despite Haruka's parents both being alive, Shinichi is eventually given guardianship of her by her father. Her father decided it's for the best, considering the time Haruka has already spent at Shinichi's house and the fact that he and his wife are barely at home.
  • In the Mazinger series:
    • Mazinger Z: After their parents and grandfather's deaths, Kouji became his little brother Shiro's de facto guardian. Even after they gain a Parental Substitute in Dr. Yumi, Kouji remains as Shiro's main caretaker.
    • Great Mazinger: In the sequel, Tetsuya and Jun take care of Shiro most of the time after Kouji and Sayaka go to the USA until almost the end of the series. Subverted because they didn't know for a long while that they were his adoptive siblings.
  • Ralph Werec in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry was promoted to parent of his much younger sister Sara after the death of their parents, James and Annie. This fostered an enormous sense of Big Brother Worship in her, which makes it even more painful when he leaves to join the army and comes back as an Omnicidal Maniac.
    • Sara herself plays a similar role to Emily.
  • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh!, who promised himself when he was 10 that he would be a father to his brother, Mokuba, after their parents died. Aside from his Noble Demon personality and Agent Scully views, Seto has been good to his word. Mokuba uses the highest, most respectful honorific toward him, "Nii-sama." The manga has them both be evil at first, with Mokuba trying to emulate his brother before both reform.
  • Jun Manjyome's older brothers in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX are the closest thing to parents he appears to have, constantly putting pressure on him to uphold the family honor. Too bad they're Corrupt Corporate Executive jerks.
  • Pokémon:
    • Brock in his debut episode. He was left in charge of a gym and his 9 siblings, when his parents left Wandering the Earth. Arguably, he holds the same position within Ash's group as well.
    • It appears Clemont is this to his little sister Bonnie at first, but several episodes in we're introduced to their father.
  • In the Gold/Silver arc of Pokémon Adventures, we learn that Blue met Silver (age five and three, respectively) after they were kidnapped by the same giant bird to become the Masked Man's minions. The two of them were put together as a team. From then on, Blue acted as a surrogate sister to the boy, and eventually escaped with him. In the Green Leaf/Fire Red arc, Silver only starts looking for his biological family after Blue has successfully found her own parents.
  • Nori from Rozen Maiden tries to be this to Jun, but she's not really cut out for it... most of the time.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
    • Related: There is a discussion between the two children adopted by Fate Testarossa-Harlaown regarding adoption and how they view their guardians. Admiral Lindy Harlaown became Fate's adoptive mother, but Caro decides that after being adopted by Fate that she's like an older sister. When Erio is asked whether he considers Fate more like his mother or his sister, he can't decide. Strictly speaking Erio thinks of Fate as a mother from his reaction. He's just too embarrassed to say that to Caro. Especially given that she's his sister by adoption (due to Fate being too young at the time to adopt him officially) and he's attracted to her.
      • In the StrikerS manga, he occasionally calls Fate "Fate-nee-san," but exclusively refers to her as "Fate-san" in the anime.
      • Most other characters refer to Fate as Erio and Caro's mother when talking with them. Vivio even believes that she should keep her distance when Erio and Caro spend time with Fate, because she has two mothers while they only have one, but they suggest that she does not need to do that.
      • Not to mention, there's Mad Scientist Jail Scaglietti referring to Fate as Erio and Caro's mother during his horrifying Hannibal Lecture towards her, in which he accuses her of raising them as Child Soldiers and being Not So Different from her Evil Matriarch mom Presea. Luckily, Erio and Caro don't agree and tell Fate it's all right, which reassures Fate and lets her beat the shit out of Jail.
    • Furthermore, Nanoha ends up as Vivio's mother by virtue of being the only one that treats her like the scared little girl she is, with Vivio doing the promoting by clinging desperately to her almost all the time at first.
    • And let's talk how Hayate Yagami "getting and adopting" her new "family" in A's...
      • She even explicitly refers to them as her "children," and in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers, Hayate, the Wolkenritter, Reinforce Zwei and Agito are referred to as "the Yagami family."
    • Perhaps the straightest example from this series would be Tiida Lanster, who took care of his little sister Teana after their parents' deaths.
  • Hwang Bu-ling aka Mew Pudding from Tokyo Mew Mew, a victim of Parental Abandonment—her mother is dead, her father left to practice martial arts, and she has five younger siblings to look after. The anime version at least introduced a kind kindergarten teacher who helps her to take care of her little sister. Top it with the fact that Bu-ling herself is only an elementary school student, and prior to the series beginning, she apparently supported her family entirely by doing tricks in a park. It must be even more exhausting since she's a waitress at a cafe and a superhero fighting aliens.
  • Rika Noyamano of Air Gear definitely qualifies for this, seeing as her parents are gone, as well as Ikki's, the only mention of either ones' parents being that Ikki was left in her care by his parents when she was only a child. Though considering she's gone for months at a time with her Professional Wrestling gig, she might also qualify as a case of Parental Abandonment herself.
  • Mad Scientist Komui Lee of D.Gray-Man is obsessively overprotective of his little sister Lenalee. As befitting the trope, their parents were killed by Akuma before the story.
  • Grave of the Fireflies does this in a painfully realistic and tragic manner, largely because much of it is a true story—Setsuko was based on Nosaka's younger sister, and he wrote the original novel in part as a way to cope with his grief and self-recrimination over her death.
  • Oda Eiichiro actualy subverts this multiple times in One Piece.
    • Nami's older sister Nojiko clearly did her best to provide moral support, but Nami was just away from the island and forced to grow up too fast to be given much parenting after their mother died. Nami doesn't hold it against Nojiko at all, however.
    • Even though Ace became a lot more mature after Sabo's 'death' (Sabo wasn't any older than Ace, but he was more cautious and levelheaded, and the three of them together could live largely independently), he was still ten years old and not even close to being emotionally stable or responsible enough to take care of Luffy, and left the bulk of that to Dadan and Makino.
    • A very young Donquixote Rocinante defied this when he ran away from his pre-teen older brother because said older brother was a sociopathic Self-Made Orphan, and soon he found a much better Parental Substitute in the future Admiral Sengoku.
  • Gantz has a rather tragic example of this trope; not only is Kato basically his young brother Ayumu's parental figure, he ends up dying, thus leaving Ayumo without an adult to look after him.
  • AIR plenty of examples: Hijiri has to take care of her younger sister Kano and to some extent Haruko, who is Misuzu's aunt and Minagi who is more or less Michiru's sister also qualify.
  • Touya from Cardcaptor Sakura gets a partial one. Fujitaka actually is a good father, just a very busy one (despite his own wishes) so Touya has to take care of Sakura many times.
  • Code Geass: After their mother was murdered and their father abandoned them, Lelouch becomes the primary caretaker to his disabled little sister, Nunnally, to the point that making the world a better place for her is one of his main motivations for his rebellion against the Emperor.
  • Kasumi of Ranma ˝ pretty much took the role of the mother in the Tendo-dojo.
    • Tatewaki Kuno has also taken over in his family—and when his father returns they even fight about it, with Tatewaki refusing to surrender leadership of their family. Kodachi of course favors her father, and it's not like Tatewaki has done that great a job of "parenting" Kodachi, but considering the choices are Tatewaki or his father—it's one of the few times Tatewaki comes off very favorably.
  • Bleach:
    • Sora Inoue, who is 15 years older than his baby sister Orihime, protects her from their Abusive Parents and runs away from home with her as soon as he reaches legal age, bringing in a paycheck and raising her until his death in a car accident three years before the main plot, at which point Orihime lives on her own with some relatives' financial support. He even lampshades this by saying Orihime is "more like a daughter (to him) than a sister."
    • Also, Hisana, Rukia's older sister. This is unique in the fact that it was actually Hisana and Rukia who died together and wound up in the afterlife. Unfortunately, that afterlife turned out to be a Crapsack World and Hisana couldn't hack it. She thus abandoned Rukia years before the start of the series, and could never forgive herself for it—therefore right before she died again, she begged her husband Byakuya to find Rukia and give her a normal life... without telling her; it's because of her last wish, and she felt she didn't deserve to be called Rukia's older sister after abandoning her, asking Byakuya to be the family-and older sibling that she never was to Rukia.
  • In Get Backers, Himiko Kudou is said to have been raised from infancy by her older brother, Yamato, and that he was the one who taught her to use her poisoned perfumes and to work as a thief alongside him from a young age. His murder when she was thirteen is what fuels her grudge against the main character, Ban Mido. Who actually is her real brother. And not to mention, Yamato himself asked Ban to kill him.
  • In Minami-ke, Haruka takes care of her two siblings Kana and Chiaki. While there is no mention about parental abandonment and their older cousin Takeru comes by once in a while, Haruka is the one who does all parental duties.
  • Racine in Glass Fleet accredits her tomboy personality and love of swordsmanship to having been raised by her brother, Michel. Even though their father was still alive, he didn't do anything for Racine except try to get her to Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Haruma from Chocotto Sister gets plunged into this role after he gets his sister Choco as a Christmas present.
  • In a weird example, inverted, Usagi and Chibi-Usa in Sailor Moon have a similar relationship. Chibi-Usa is sent to the past to live with Usagi, who is her mother in the future. However, since Usagi is a teenager, Chibi-Usa usually has a lack of respect for her as her future mother, and they get into arguments as if Usagi were the sibling substituting for the parent, instead of the future parent.
  • Sara in Princess Sarah becomes Lottie's "little mother" for all intents and purposes, as in the original novel. It's stated in the anime that Lottie's mother died when she was very small, though she does have a father who appears briefly in one episode.
  • Black of Tekkonkinkreet takes care of the playful but peculiar White much like a parent; he steals money to support them both and even helps White dress. (He doesn't know how to do so by himself yet.) Although it's never explicitly stated that they're related, the two are so close that they might as well be siblings.
  • Mai-HiME: Mai Tokiha inherited the responsibility of taking care of her sickly younger brother Takumi from first her mother and later her father. This responsibility weighs on her pretty heavily, but she tries not to let anyone know that. She also ends up considering her status as Takumi's caretaker a key part of her identity, so much so that she has conflicting feelings when he expresses a desire to become more independent, and this is part of the reason Yuuichi replaces Takumi as her Key.
  • In Captain Tsubasa Koujiro Hyuga's widowed mother does not want her eldest son to "replace" the family's Disappeared Dad (who died two years before the story started), but Hyuga himself insists in working part-time after school to help out the family. This partially stops when Hyuga becomes a Scholarship Student in Tokyo, but he keeps taking care of the family more indirectly once he becomes a soccer star: before going to Italy, he buys them a beautiful house in Saitama, and he sends them money regularly.
  • Daiichi Yamura from Bokurano takes care of his three younger siblings since his father has been gone for a while. Mr. Yamura is actually helping a friend in distress, not permanently gone. Daiichi dies after his battle, but the boss from his part-time job takes care of the other kids and then Mr. Yamura comes back for them.
  • Kaori from Best Student Council. Hinted at in the early episodes, near the end we see that she is the oldest of four children, left caring for her siblings after their parents death. She is the only council member not to live at the dorm, preferring to live with her younger siblings in a house in the city, delivering newspapers to make ends meet. She keeps this a secret from the others because she doesn't want to them to feel sorry for her, and gets torn into by Rino for this once it comes out.
  • In Binbou Shimai Monogatari, Kyou takes care of her younger sister Asu after their mother died and their father ran off. It's not always easy for her, since she is still only 15 herself and has to juggle school with work. Still, her love for her sister makes her pull it off.
  • Michael Garret of GUN×SWORD was promoted to parent years before the series began. Up until he is kidnapped by the Claw, he did a good job of caring for his younger sister, Wendy.
  • Go Katou from Aishite Night is a college student and aspiring singer who has been taking care of his kindergarten-aged brother Hashizou ever since their father's death. In a subversion, Go's mother Yoko is still alive... but Hashizo's Missing Mom was actually the lover of their Disappeared Dad, making little Hashizou a pint-sized Heroic Bastard. Despite Yoko's conflicted feelings on the deal, Go still took the little kid in.
  • Yukishiro Tomoe from Rurouni Kenshin took over the motherly duties for her younger brother Enishi after their mother died during Enishi's birth.
  • In Eden of the East, Saki's older sister took responsibility for raising her after their parents' deaths. Saki is grateful for her assistance and that of her husband, but is hoping to get a job so as not to rely too much on her kindness.
  • Kanba Takakura from Mawaru-Penguindrum became this to Shoma and Himari when he was around 13 years old. As a child, he promised his father Kenzan that he'd protect his siblings if something ever happened to him and their mother Chiemi. Then it turned out that the parents were members of a terrorist organisation and had to run away from home...
  • Sakanoue Gammon of Phi Brain: Puzzle of God has a younger sister, who he supports by submitting puzzles to magazines. He also tries to butt into every one of the Kenja Puzzles set up by the P.O.G. in an attempt to get the prize money and later joins them, though in that case it's not just for the money.
  • Kurumi from Haou Airen is both the eldest daughter and the main breadwinner of the Akino family, since the father died when she was 14 years old and the mother is a very frail Ill Girl.
  • Scrapped Princess, Raquell is the eldest of the Cassull siblings and doubles as the mother figure to Shannon and Pacifica, ever since their parents were killed while protecting Pacifica from Inquisitors from The Church of Mauser.
  • Variable Geo: At 16, Satomi's had to struggle to support herself and her kid brother, Daisuke, since they have no other living relatives. She holds two jobsnote , while continuing to finish highschool. But her brother's medical treatments are so costly, that she barely earns enough for them to live on.
  • Sixteen-year-old Kodaka Hasegawa of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is this for thirteen-year-old Kobato. With their mother Airi dead a few years after Kobato was born, and their father Hayato working in America as an archaeologist, the boy had to raise Kobato by himself, cook her meals, and put up with her vampire-lolita fantasies. Fortunately, at least Hayato was generous enough to send them to study in St. Chronica Academy, run by his best friend, Tenma Kashiwazaki, whose teenage daughter Sena would develop an comically unhealthy obsession for the little girl.
  • In 3-gatsu no Lion, Akari Kawamoto more-or-less serves as the parental figure for her two younger sisters, caring for them and even arguing with them as a mother would, as noted when she realizes she had a similar argument with their mother as she did with Hina.
  • Touka Takanashi of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions anime becames as she started to take after her younger sister Rikka. This is a deconstruction, as Touka is clearly not a very good parent—especially in dealing with Rikka's emotional trauma arising from Parental Abandonment.
  • Vividred Operation: Momo takes care of the domestic chores, because her mom is in the hospital, grandpa is busy with research, and Akane is busy making some extra money to support the family.
  • Ian gets this in A Cruel God Reigns after his father, Greg, and stepmother, Sandra, die. Although his aunt Natasha is around to help, she runs away due to a guilty conscience for not telling anyone that she knew Greg was sexually abusing Jeremy.
  • Binbō-gami ga! has the Tsuwabuki family where the eldest brother, Keita, cares for his four younger siblings as breadwinner (while still a high school student) and the eldest sister, Rika, does a lot of the household chores and cooking. Their parents are nowhere to be seen.
  • Taishi in Servant × Service towards his little sister Touko, out of Parental Abandonment. This is the cause of the latter brother's Big Brother Worship.
  • Kodaka to Kobato in Haganai—their mother passed away, and their father had a work transfer to the US. Sena's father (who was friends with Mr. Hasegawa) makes fun of the Parental Abandonment, which Kodaka does not take well to.
  • In Pandora Hearts, poor Gilbert got promoted to parent before his age reached the double digits: his parents sold him and his little brother Vincent to a freak show because of the latter's red eye (a sign of being a Child of Misfortune). The two children grew up on the streets, and Gilbert took it upon himself to feed his brother (by stealing) and protect him—even though he was tempted to abandon him and fend for himself many times. Vincent developed a twisted obsession with Gilbert as a result.
  • In Castle Town Dandelion, Satsuki was this during high school, looking after her 4 siblings while her parents were out to work.
  • Happens in Kyou Kara Yonshimai when the father of the girls abandons them after their mother's death. It's up to the oldest sister to take care of her sisters. She ends up running off as an adult though.
  • The Prince of Tennis gives a partial one to the pre-teen Tomoka Osakada in the anime, since both of her parents work and often leave her in charge of her barely toddler-aged twin brothers.
  • Himouto! Umaru-chan has Taihei, a blue-collar worker who takes care of his younger sister Umaru. It's... hilariously hard.
  • Shinshunki Miman Okotowari:
    • The junior high student Manato Sudou has pretty much raised his little sister Kazusa since their mom died and their dad, aside of sending them money, isn't present in their lives.
    • When Kazusa and Manato's older half-sister Asuka arrives to the Sudou household, she decides to invoke the trope and take care of them and their home from then on, hoping that the three will become a family - which she badly needs, since her mom died too and she wants to prove herself to their father, Mr. Sudou.
  • In Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, Yumoto Hakone's parents are never seen and he's been pretty much raised by his older brother Gora. Gora makes Yumoto's school lunches and is shown to be extremely protective of him, while Yumoto quotes his advice often and dreams of being a man like him someday.
  • Implied in some episodes of Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics:
    • In "Bluebeard", two of Josephine's three brothers look notoriously older than her and the youngest one, and their parents aren't mentioned. This means the two eldest almost surely raised the two youngest, and it'd certainly explain why the three are super protective of her.
    • In "Brother and Sister", Rudolf/Brother and Rose/Sister had been looking out for one another ever since the beginning due to having a Wicked Stepmother, but after they escape from her and Rudolf gets turned into a stag, Rose takes care of him more openly. She even takes him to live with her, despite him still being a stag, when she marries the local King.

    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 Ryuuko is more naive than she is.

    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.

  • In Dragon Bones Ward did this to himself, even though his parents were alive. With an abusive father, and a mother who'd rather take drugs than oppose her abusive husband, Ward as the big brother had to take over. His younger brother Tosten whom Ward took to a nearby town to apprentice him to a cooper after a failed suicide attempt lampshades this by saying that their mother had it easy, as her duty of protecting the children was taken over by Ward. Young Ciarra has a lady in waiting who looks after her, but Ward also parents her to some extent.There is also Garranon, who was promoted to parent when his parents were killed. He's very protective towards his younger brother, even though they're both adults.
  • Happens in K. A. Applegate's and Michael Grant’s Remnants series, especially to Jobs, who takes the role for both his own little brother and Billy, who is oddly vulnerable despite being about Jobs' age. Also more literally with Mark, who raised his little brother D-Caf after their parents' deaths. He didn't do a very great job, being moody and mercurial, but was willing to kill and die to get him and D-Caf to survive the Earth's destruction.
  • Animorphs has a variant early on, when the "death" of Marco's mom puts his dad into such a depression that Marco becomes the more parental one for the next two years. His dad eventually gets his act together.
  • Basically everyone in Gone after all of the adults disappear in a town, and the town is then covered with an impenetrable barrier. Especially Mary, who gets the job of taking care of the Under 5s.
    • Deconstructed with Sam, who gets so sick of playing the daddy that he quits his job as mayor.
    • Astrid to Little Pete, her autistic little brother.
  • Cora to Alice in The Last of the Mohicans. Alice characteristically calls her in one point "my more than sister, my mother..."
  • The protagonist of the novel Back Roads, by Tawni O Dell, becomes this to his three younger sisters.
  • Variant 2 is given a nice scrubbing and dusted off for Terry Brooks' Genesis of Shannara series. While there are adults around, the majority of them are either demons or holed up in fortified cities, petrified of everybody else. The main protagonists are pretty much all children of some sort, except for the Knights of the Word.
  • Violeta from Sho-shan y la Dama Oscura got this after losing the rest of her family. So she has to see over her little sister, Luisa.
  • The type 2 variant is played straight in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game; children are drafted into schools that first prepare them for military service and then become real military action, carefully disguised from the kids. Though parenting as such isn't a major component of the book, squad leaders end up in semi-parental roles for the younger children.
  • In memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, author/protagonist Dave Eggers is given charge of his younger brother Toph after his parents die within a month of each other.
  • C. S. Lewis:
    • In Till We Have Faces, a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche's mother dies in childbirth, leaving Psyche's sister Orual to raise her. Rather too much so.
    • As mentioned already, he also sorta used the trope in The Chronicles of Narnia books, since the teenaged Peter and Susan have to deal with helping out Edmund and Lucy (with help of Professor Kirke) when their parents send them to the countryside to protect them from the London bombings. The 2005 film version strongly highlights this, with Edmund given the Freudian Excuse of particularly missing their father and resenting Peter's attempts to be a father figure to him.
  • Similar to the situation in the Narnia books, once The Boxcar Children are orphaned, Henry and Jessie, the two oldest, take on the role of mother and father for their younger siblings Violet and Benny. This is most noticeable in the first book, before the Aldens realize their grandfather is kind and go to live with him.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn, parental units of house Stark, head south on matters of intrigue, leaving eldest son Robb to perform the lord's duties. He commands the household, deals with his father's bannermen, holds and scolds his younger brother Bran, and even marches off to war to defend the family honor. At that point Bran himself might qualify for the trope, as he is then the acting lord in his brother's place and the only role model the even younger Rickon has left.
    • Viserys has been taking care of his younger sister Daenerys since their mother died giving birth to her. Too bad he's not very good at it.
  • The backstory of Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment's Sweet Polly Oliver involves her being this to her older brother, who was mentally challenged. Even though they still had a parent.
  • In The Outsiders, the main character Ponyboy and his brother Sodapop are under the legal guardianship of their older brother Darryl after the death of their parents.
  • This is basically the entire premise of the novel Homecoming from The Tillerman Family Series. Dicey Tillerman and her three younger siblings are abandoned in a car in a supermarket parking lot by their mentally unstable (and, as it turns out, terminally ill) mother Liza. When Dicey, who is all of thirteen, realizes that Momma's not coming back for them, she very calmly and rationally hikes the kids to their distant cousin's house in New England, which is where they'd been headed in the first place. From there, they then travel—again, by themselves—down to Maryland, where they find and move in with their grandmother. The sequel, Dicey's Song, deals with Dicey learning to give up the Promotion To Parent she'd been forced to shoulder when Gram legally adopts the four of them and the fate of their mother is learned.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, when Rafen and Arkio were sent off to the Blood Angels, their father told Rafen to look after Arkio. Even when they are both Space Marines, he feels responsible for him.
  • Renie Sulaweyo, protagonist of Tad Williams' Otherland series, is forced into caring for her brother, Stephen, due to her mother's death and her father's degeneration into an irresponsible drunkard. As a variation of the trope, however, she is an adult.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, the older children, Victor and Amelia, frequently took on a parental role because they knew none of the adults about could be trusted.
  • The protagonist of The Bean Trees vows to graduate high school and escape her hometown without getting pregnant—only to become responsible for an abandoned toddler as soon as she hits the road.
  • Sara Crewe becomes Lottie's "mamma" in A Little Princess. It's explained in the novel that Lottie's mother has died, and her father, described as a "flighty young man", has placed her in boarding school because he doesn't quite know what to do with her.
  • Harry Potter: Albus Dumbledore, a child prodigy, was quite bitter about becoming the parent to his two younger siblings, Aberforth and Ariana, after his mother Kendra died. When he was too distracted by a mysterious stranger who was a prodigy equal, Albus neglected his siblings in his new excitement and unfortunately, this eventually led to a three-way fight between himself, Aberforth and best friend Grindelwald that accidentally killed poor Ariana, and led to years of bitterness between the two remaining siblings.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, Sylvie is in charge of Bruno—particularly his lessons.
  • In On the Edge, Mom died and Dad ran off, so Rose is left to raise her two younger brothers. She's forced to work long hours at a minimum wage, physical labor job in order to put food on the table, and she still has to save her pennies in order to buy the boys shoes.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo singlehandedly raises his younger brother, Jehan, after their parents die of plague.
  • In The Ellie Chronicles, Lee has to take on the job of raising his younger siblings since they were orphaned by the war.
  • Angus Solomon, in Bumface, does all the day-to-day caring for his younger siblings and has an awkward quasi-brotherly quasi-parental relationship with them, as all three of them have Disappeared Dads and a mother who works very, very long hours.
  • Wicked Lovely: Ren and Leslie's mom walks out, and their dad is never home. Ren is sort-of promoted to parent, even though Leslie's the one left paying the bills. Ren doesn't make a very good parent.
  • The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees-Brennan gives us Alan, who took charge of his younger brother Nick at a very young age after Nick's intensely unstable mum Olivia tried to drown him as a baby. The sequel The Demon's Covenant reveals that Worse it's even worse than that: Daniel Ryves, Alan's father, made baby Nick Alan's "especial charge" to avoid dealing with him because of what Olivia said he was. When Alan was seven, he caught his father with a magic knife, ready to stab a five-year-old Nick in his bed. As a result of this, Alan freely admits to putting his brother before the entire world, with potentially disastrous consequences.
  • In Michelle Paver's The Shadow Catcher, a pregnant mother, whose husband was away at the army (and later dies) gives premature birth to a girl. Because there was no time to call the doctor and the family's servant had left them without a warning, her daughter Madeleine is left to be midwife. Did I mention Madeleine was ten years old? Then, the mother dies, and Madeleine takes care of herself and the baby with only the assistance of a medical textbook, until some relatives come to take them. Those relatives want to separate the sisters, so Madeleine has to come up with a story to persuade them to keep both of them. (She told them it was her mother's dying wish.) As they grow up, the younger sister develops tuberculosis, so Madeleine basically spends the rest of the novel acting Mama Bear and doing various things which fall into the category of Grey Morality to get her sister a chance to grow up healthy and happy.
  • V. C. Andrews:
    • In Flowers in the Attic, Chris and Cathy Dollanganger become surrogate parents to their younger siblings whilst locked away in the attic. This plays a factor in how their perception of the other changes, eventually culminating in what becomes a life-long incestuous relationship.
    • In The Casteel Series, Heaven and Tom become parents to their younger siblings after Sarah walks out on the family.
  • In Hero by Perry Moore, high school student Goran has been raising his little brother ever since their parents were killed in a war.
  • Chanda's Story and its sequel Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton follow the story of teenage Chanda who becomes the de facto mother of her two (much) younger siblings and her terminally ill mother. Eventually Chanda's best friend (also a teenager) moves in with her own younger siblings.
  • In Nicole Baart's Beneath The Night Tree, Julia has been raising her half-brother alongside her own son for five years, and struggles with not knowing whether to play the role of "sister" or "mom". Toward the end of the book, she decides to be his mom and officially adopts him.
  • J.M. Barrie grew up listening to his mother tell stories about her childhood, when she was an orphan and had to singlehandedly care for her brothers. These helped to inspire his book and play Peter Pan, specifically the character of Wendy, who plays mom to both her brothers while they're in Neverland. In a reversal of the process, she also acts as "mother" to the Lost Boys, who eventually get adopted by her parents and raised as her brothers. Demotion to Sibling?
  • Hans and Gretchen are co-parents to their younger siblings in 1632. They take this to the point of being willing to be cannon fodder and camp prostitute (to a sadistic mercenary) respectively for their blood and adopted siblings. This in fact is what causes Jeff to fall in love with Gretchen as much as her looks.
  • Even while the children move from one guardian to another, Violet takes care of her siblings after they are all orphaned in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and all three children become the parents of Kit Snicket's daughter after the Volunteer dies.
  • Everna Palindrake in The Chronicles of Magravandias raises her brother and sister from birth because their mother dies and their father is often away from home. To make things worse, she's nine when she takes this role.
  • When her father abandoned her family, the protagonist in Beachwalker became the parent… of her alcoholic mother.
  • In The Underland Chronicles, with his dad missing, his mom working, and his grandma's dementia, Gregor starts out with a lot of weight on his shoulders. Things don't get much better when he has the Underland to think about as well.
  • In The Hunger Games, when Katniss' father dies, her mother goes into shock, forcing Katniss to take over for both parents.
    • Gale becomes the "man of the house" after his father dies in the same mine accident, and the main breadwinner when he turns 18 and starts working in the mines himself.
  • Forbidden: Due to parental abandonment and neglect, 17-year-old Lochan and 16-year-old Maya have been promoted to parents for their three younger siblings. The littlest two, who are 8 and 5, accept it, but 13-year-old Kit resents them for it.
    Kit: He's not my father! He may pretend to care, but it's only because he's on some sick power trip! He doesn't love me like Dad did, but he sure as hell thinks he can tell me what to do every second of the day!
    Maya: You're right. He doesn't love us the way Dad did. Dad buggered off halfway round the world with his new family the moment things got tough. Lochan could have left school last year, got himself a job, and moved out. He could choose to run off next year to a university at the other end of the country. But no, he's only applying to ones in London, even though his teachers were desperate for him to try for Oxbridge. He's staying in London so he can live here and look after us and make sure we're all right.
  • Jerin's father died a few months before the start of A Brother's Price. His twelve mothers and various older sisters are alive, but as the oldest male, almost sixteen years old, he's expected to take up nurturing fatherly duties for his younger siblings. Since he'd been helping his father out anyway, he's able to do it and well, but this does mean that when they hear he's to leave and be married, his littlest siblings are heartbroken.
  • After Alderaan, Tash Arranda is thirteen, only a year older than her brother, but their new guardians are grudging, and she veers between being sisterly and trying to guide and take care of him. They responded to the deaths of everyone they knew in very different ways; she wanted to withdraw from everything, but he became a reckless daredevil, and so Tash decides that she needs to look out for him in Galaxy of Fear.
  • There are several examples in Elinor M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series, most notably Madge Bettany, the school's founder, and her twin brother Dick, who are responsible for their Ill Girl little sister Joey (the series heroine) after their parents die, and Gillian Linton, who takes care of her Bratty Half-Pint sister Joyce while their mother is ill.
  • In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, Kat's sisters took over after the nurse. Kat thinks this is why they still think of her as a baby.
  • In The House of Night, Stevie Rae seems to be this for her Red Fledglings, mostly because of Parental Abandonment and/or because most people think they're still dead.
  • In Great Expectations, the main character, Pip, was brought up by his (much older) sister and her husband after their parents died.
  • In the Newsflesh series, Alaric ends up raising his younger sister, Alisa, after she's forced to kill their parents and brother during the second Rising.
  • In the novel Winter's Bone, main protagonist Ree is faced with raising her two younger brothers after her father vanishes and her mother has an unspecified mental condition. Then it turns out her father failed to show up for his bail hearing. And put the house up for his bail. So if she doesn't find him, they'll all be out on the street. It sucks to be the grown-up sometimes.
  • Sasha and Joe from The Tenets of Futilism adopt Joe's younger siblings after being forced to kill their cultist parents. Said parents left the children traumatized after actively crushing their dreams and making them watch a woman being tortured. Sasha and Joe try to be than that. They take the children on a trip around America hoping to bring them out of their depression. But by the end of the book, Sasha and Joe become preoccupied with managing their own cult, and the children are forgotten once again.
  • Lina to her little sister Poppy in The City of Ember, as her parents are dead and her grandmother has dementia.
  • REAL has Den, who singlehandedly raised his granddaughter Fasia because her parents were such internet addicts that they only ever logged out of The Metaverse to eat, bathe and get some sleep, completely neglecting their only child.
  • The big twist reveal in Afternoon of the Elves is that Sara-Kate has been acting as a mother to her own mother for nearly a year, after Mrs. Connolly fell victim to some sort of breakdown or serious illness. Sara-Kate is terrified of being taken away by CPS, so she's been keeping their situation secret and making ends meet through a combination of clever deceit, hard work, MacGyvering, and sheer force of will.
  • In All Our Yesterdays, James' older brother, Nate, took over raising him after their parents died.
  • The novel Tex (and the movie based on it) has the titular character being taken care of by his older brother Mason, since their mother died and their father tours the rodeo circuit.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Mr. Darcy has raised his teenage sister Georgiana since their parents died when she was a child. He had help from his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and his staff, but it's clear Mr. Darcy is Georgiana's primary caretaker.
  • In Valley of the Dolls, fourteen-year-old Miriam raised her baby brother.
  • In Magda Szabó’s novel Tell Sally…, Dora’s guardian is her older sister Vicky. This changes by the end of the novel, which is at the beginning of the book.
  • In the Malaussène saga by Daniel Pennac, Benjamin Malaussène raises his mother’s children.
  • Heroes Save the World: Hannah Johnson was not just promoted to parent in her original home but, after being put in the foster care system, has apparently promoted herself again. It's not yet clear if it was necessary every time or if she's just unable to believe that other people can actually take care of her siblings.
  • In The Dark Artifices Julian Blackthorn takes care of his four younger siblings, with help from parabatai Emma Carstairs and teacher Diana Wrayburn, after the death of his father, and the kidnappings and banishments of his older half-siblings, Mark and Helen. Technically, the Blackthorn children are taken care of by their uncle, but he is mentally unstable and Julian must instead care for the family; in addition, he must keep his efforts a secret, as knowledge of the incompetency of their uncle as a guardian would result in the family being separated.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 100, Bellamy is this for Octavia.
  • Game of Thrones: Viserys has been taking care of Daenerys for almost her entire life since their exile. He is abusive, but Daenerys still gets to her wedding day healthy, unharmed, reasonably innocent, and with her virginity intact.
  • Marc Vilaseca, original prankster/good guy of Catalonia based series Merli gets promoted to parent his younger brother Pau because their mother works at night. Problems occured.
  • Promotion To Parent is the fundamental premise of Party of Five, in which 24 year-old Charlie is given the responsibility of legal guardianship of his four younger siblings (with ages ranging from 16 to 1 year old), after both parents are killed by a drunk driver.
  • Apollo, to Boxey, after Serina is killed in the fifth episode of the original Battlestar Galactica.
  • On Mom, Christy finds out that because of her years of substance abuse and continued self-absorption (even in the wake of her sobriety), Violet has assumed the role of mothering Roscoe and does an incredibly good job at it.
  • In the Bones episode "The Girl in the Mask", Ken Nakamura raised his sister Sachi, leading Booth to refer to him as a parent.
    • Bones herself is an aversion; when their parents disappeared, her nineteen-year-old brother allowed her to be put in foster care because he didn't think he could take care of her. Years later she's still bitter.
      • This crops up in an episode where Bones becomes very close to the older brother of a deceased victim, largely because the brother accepted the Promotion To Parent her own brother could/would not. This makes it all the worse when the older brother is revealed to be the killer.
  • Starting in mid-season five, Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets to pull double-duty as Slayer and caretaker of her sister Dawn. This starts catching up with her in season six, although the other Scoobies assist where they can (Depending on the Writer). During the gap between Season Five and Season Six (when Buffy was dead and in no condition to take care of Dawn), Willow, Tara, and Spike got a temporary promotion. In the Season 8 comic books, Dawn outright states that "Will is like a mom to me", and in Season 6 she's given a divorced-parents talk with Tara when she and Willow break up. It's pretty clear who Dawn views as her parents. Really all you need to see that is "Seeing Red" and how she reacts to finding Tara's body.
  • Chuck: Ellie Bartowski had to step up from about the of age twelve to raise her brother and run their household since their mother left them with their mentally absent father. Their father left as well a few years later, making the promotion to parent even more official.
  • Fiz in Coronation Street has to act as mother to her younger brother Chesney, after their mum Cilla abandoned them.
  • Tom Jennings on Dark Shadows was apparently a very good parent to his much younger sister, Amy, then he got turned into a vampire. His twin, Chris, took over, but seemed content to let the Collins look after her because he's a werewolf.
  • Sean on Degrassi is taken care of by his older brother because he doesn't want to live with his parents after being expelled from his old school for a violent incident.
  • Desperate Housewives: Though it hasn't been elaborated on much, it's indicated that Lynette was this to her two younger sisters, since their father was out of the picture for as-yet-unspecified reasons and their promiscuous, alcoholic mother alternated between abusive and neglectful. This may also provide some insight into Lynette's initial reluctance to the idea of having children.
  • Nancy in the Doctor Who story "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" looks after a bunch of homeless Blitz orphans and failed Blitz Evacuees. Except one of them really is her son.
  • In Firefly, after Simon rescues River he is put in a position where he has to protect and take care of her due to the results of what was done to her at the Academy. He is also considered responsible for her actions in the ship and is expected to keep her in line, though this sort of blurs as the series progressed, with the rest of the crew starting to care for River as well toward the end. Notably, Simon and River's parents never actually died; Simon was just the only member of the family willing to do what it took to rescue and protect River from the government.
  • The First Shop of Coffee Prince: Eun Chan's dad died, so she helps to support her mom and sister by working several jobs. She's also rather protective of her sister.
  • In the Floricienta Soap Opera, lead male Federico Fritzenwalden is a Hello, Attorney! who at the age of 27 becomes the Team Dad in his very numerous family after their parents suddenly die in an accident, and the lead female Flor is actually working for him as the babysitter/caretaker/Team Mom for his orphaned siblings.
  • Sam Evans on Glee is revealed to be this after his father loses his job and he's forced to babysit his young brother and sister while his parents look for work.
  • In GilmoreGirls Luke is promoted to parent for his nephew, Jess, after his sister and Jess's mother ships Jess off to live with him
  • In Heroes, it's strongly implied this was the case for Nathan and Peter Petrelli: in the pilot, their mother Angela quite casually confessed to Peter that she never paid him much attention in favor of supporting Nathan's ambitions (and frankly, she thought Peter was too needy and she didn't have the energy to deal with it) and you find out at various points in the series that Peter was their father Arthur's Unfavorite, leaving him to turn to his older (by about twelve years) brother Nathan every time he needed help or support.
  • Tim from Home Improvement sometimes mentions being this for his younger siblings after his dad died when he was 11.
  • The House episode "Whac-a-Mole" had its patient of the week being a teenaged boy whose parents died in a car accident, leaving him to raise his younger siblings. When faced with the choice of getting cured from his disease or having his siblings placed in foster care, he actually chooses the second, feeling that he can't handle parenthood.
    • Another episode has a young man taking care of both his younger brother and his schizophrenic mother, and lying to Social Services about his age.
  • Spencer in iCarly. Their father is in the military and did not appear until the finale; their mother, on the other hand, was never mentioned.
  • One of the students in the sixth season of Kinpachi-sensei has parents who are too busy to take care of their kids. However the boys older brother is a Jerk Ass drug user who abuses him and takes money from him. He ends up beating him up and abandoning him. It's played with later on when it's revealed his parents were overworking to try and make their children's lives better than theirs were. They end up reconciling their bond after the older brothers gets put in jail.
  • Both used and averted in Mahou Sentai Magiranger, in which the oldest of the five Ozu siblings brings home the paychecks and grows vegetables for food, while the middle sibling uses said paychecks to handle the bills and does the cooking/cleaning. Only the youngest sibling is school age, but since all five are superheroes, the whole Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World thing isn't an issue anyway.
  • In Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman, Gaku Hoshikawa acts as a father to his siblings after the loss of their parents. Until it's revealed they're still alive and well.
  • In Melissa & Joey, Mel Burke becomes in charge of her niece and nephew after their parents get in trouble with the law for running a Ponzi scheme.
  • This is Lisbon's backstory in The Mentalist. Her mother died in a drunk-driving accident and her father became an alcoholic who was unfit to care for her and her younger brothers. Might explain why she tends to mother Jane and the team.
  • On NCIS, it's eventually revealed that Agent Lee's parents had died shortly after adopting a young girl, leaving Lee responsible for her new little sister.
  • Happened in Aussie soap Neighbours when a new family (or rather, part of an old family, the Ramseys) were introduced, but before they even got introduced properly, the single mother died in a car accident. With the father missing, oldest child Katie steps up to the plate as year-12 student and bread-winner for her marginally younger brother Harry (who repeatedly undermines her authority, not always deliberately, because he is only a year younger than her) and little sister Sophie (who's about 10 and looks up to both her older siblings—which causes problems if/when they clash).
  • In Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy and Rodney Trotter's mother Joan died when Rodney was a baby and their father Reg left as soon as Del was a teenager, so Del had to raise Rodney himself, with help from Grandad.
  • In On My Block, Cesar was raised by his older brother Oscar because their mother was neglectful, possibly due to drug abuse or a mental illness. When Cesar says he never noticed that she had problems, Oscar replies, "Good - then I did my job."
  • Privileged
    • Part of Megan's back-story is that she became this when her mother left; some of the conflict in the later half of the season stems from her father and sister expecting her to resume this mantle when the mother returns, only to abandon them all over again. She is also usually promoted to parent for the twins whenever Laurel has to leave town for a while.
    • Sage also fits this trope; after the twins' parents died, she took it upon herself to partially fulfill the parental role and sees herself as responsible for both her own and Rose's future security (as revealed in All About The Big Picture after she fires their publicist.)
  • Lauren from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2 episode "Alpine Fields" raises her infant sister Sydney after both her father and mother are killed by a Terminator.
  • The premise of Shameless is that due to a Missing Mom and alcoholic deadbeat dad Frank who might as well have disappeared, eldest daughter Fiona Gallagher stepped up to the plate and began taking care of her five siblings.
    • The original UK version had the responsibility shift to other siblings in later series.
  • Luke's older brother in SLiDE after their parents are killed. Not the most pleasant example of the trope as it has turned him into a taciturn and brooding young man with a propensity for taking his anger out on Luke.
  • Supernatural
    • Dean was the one who looked after Sam when they were kids since their dad John was too busy going around trying to find the demon that killed their mother. Hell, Dean was the one who pulled Sam out of the fire that killed Mary, and he even uses the Because I Said So line, like in "Bedtime Stories." Dean arguably replaces their mom even more when the three are reunited, as he regularly acts as peace-keeper between Sam and John. In Season 12, Dean outright states that he had to be a big brother, father, and mother to Sam (John clearly couldn't be any) which was damned unfair to expect of a child.
    • Michael also claims that he was this to his younger brother Lucifer.
  • The Vampire Diaries
    • Elena's aunt Jenna, after her parent's are killed. After Jenna is killed, Elena becomes this towards Jeremy. Although she eventually leaves for college, leaving Jeremy in the custody of her boyfriend, Damon.
    • Elijah and Klaus are this to their younger siblings, Rebekah and Kol, since there parents are dead and horrible.
  • This is the backstory of Joe from Wings; when his and Brian's mother abandoned them as children, his father wasn't really competent to look after them and the job went to Joe. As he rants to his mom later:
    "Who do you think got your job when you left? I was twelve years old; you left me with a sinkful of dirty dishes and two kids to take care of, Brian and Dad."
  • Michael Lee of The Wire: his father is unknown, his step-father is in prison, and his mother is a drug addict, so he has to take on the role of parenting his younger brother Bug. When his step-father returns, there's a power struggle between him and Michael over who is a better father figure for Bug, complicated with the implication of sexual abuse in their shared past.
  • On The L Word, Shane is forced to take care of her half-brother Shay for part of Season 4 after both his parents abandon him. She grows to care for him deeply, and is devastated when their father Gabriel returns and takes him away. Despite the fact that Shay has minimal lines, he is shown to have drawn a picture of himself and Shane when assigned a drawing of "family" at school.
  • Smallville: This is where Tess's relationship with Alexander (the young clone of her half-brother) was headed before his inner Lex took over. By "Scion," when he's become Conner, she's closer to a regular older sister or aunt to him. (It's interesting to note that while it's this trope in retrospect, at the time she was technically a Parental Substitute since she didn't know that she was Lex's sister.)
  • Sherlock: Interestingly, even though Sherlock's parents never died or abandoned them, they never understood their kids that well, so this is literally what happened with Mycroft.
    Mycroft: [pouring tea] I'll be 'Mother' [for non-brits: the highest ranking Female of the party that serves the tea]
    Sherlock: [dryly] And that is our entire childhood in a nutshell.
  • Animal sort-of example in Too Cute. The Tonkinese cat Queenie and her eldest daughter Princess raise their litters together, but Queenie gets sick so Princess finds herself with her paws full by taking care of both her half-siblings and her own babies until the matriarch gets better.
  • Bea for Evie in The House Of Eliott. After their mother didn't survive Evie's birth, their father, having hoped for a boy, wasn't interested in her and so abandoned her to the care of Bea, who was only twelve herself.
  • Fuller House: In some ways, Ramona becomes this when she gives Kimmy advice. Lampshaded when she points out that one person in the family has to be an adult.
  • Henry Warnimont invokes this when he adopts Punky Brewster.
  • In Royal Pains, Hank stepped up and raised his little brother, Evan, after their mother died and their father abandoned them.
  • An Afterschool Special titled "Daddy, I'm Their Mama Now" dealt with a country singer's oldest daughter becoming a mother figure to her younger brothers after their mother is killed in a plane crash.

    Puppet Shows 

  • 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.

  • 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....
  • 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