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Promotion To Parent / Real Life

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  • When Marie Curie's mother died, her eldest sister took over as female head of the household, supervising the servants, making sure that everyone was ready for school in the morning, and essentially playing the role of a mother to her younger siblings.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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 cross 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.
  • This was part of the background of the early Contemporary Christian Music group 2nd Chapter of Acts, as Annie (Ward) Herring (having recently gotten married to her husband Buck, who eventually became the producer of the group's albums) ended up taking in younger siblings Nelly and Matthew Ward after their parents died within 2 years of each other.
  • Another example as a result of tragedy was that of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn; who just days after his 18th birthday in 1993 found himself finishing high-school while raising his younger siblings after his single mother - who served as a cop - was killed in the line of duty.

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