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Dominant Ego

Question:

my 7 year old neighbor is extreemly mature for her age. Its as if she has no id or superego. She does things that an adult would do. One morning her younger sister woke up really early and she cooked for her sister on a stove, dressed her and everything. the way she speeks is very mature as well she does not sound like a regular 7 year old nor does she act like one. Is there a possible disorder here or maybe lead to one?

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Answer:

You ask a very interesting question about your 7 year old neighbor: could there be something wrong with her or could she develop a problem as a result of doing so many mature things at such a young age? The answer might seem simple but it’s actually complicated.

Presumably it is admirable that such a young child wakens early, prepares breakfast, dresses and cares for her younger sister. You report that she speaks and conducts herself in ways that are mature beyond her years. She appears to be an intelligent, precocious and responsible youngster.

A lot depends upon why this youngster is doing all of these adult types of things at home. For example, if her parents are alcoholic or are substance abusers and not able to function then she becomes what is referred to as a "parentified child." The term refers to the fact that the child is forced into having to care for the family because the parents are not capable of fulfilling their responsibilities due to addictions.

On the other hand, if her mother is a single parent, has to get to work in order to support the family and needs the help and support of her daughter, the young girl is still "parentified" but for some better reasons than parental substance abuse. The problem is that this youngster is still having to more than she should and is missing out on her childhood.

The other possibility is that she is just a very precocious and energetic youngster who loves to help her parents by taking on a lot of responsibility. If this is the case, the hopefully has plenty of time for school and for play. If this is the case, she is not missing out on her chance to be a child.

There is always a balance in raising children between giving them too much responsibility and no responsibility. As Americans, we tend to be blamed for "spoiling" our children by giving them too many material things and little or no chores to do. The right chores at an age appropriate time allow children to develop a sense of self confidence that can carry them throughout their lives.

From your description it does seem as though the child you mention is doing more than she should have to at age seven. It raises serious questions: where are the parents when the child is doing all of these things; does she go to school; is anyone home after school or is she responsible for her sister because there are no adults in the house after school hours? In the last case, children who come home from school and are alone are referred to as "latch key children" because they are alone between the end of school and when the parents return from work in the evening. I know from experience with adults who experienced this as children, that it can be quite scary to be alone in the house. By alone I am including the fact that a younger or older child might be present.

It is difficult to say whether this girl will suffer negative consequences as a result of what she is doing. In my experience some of the adults with whom I have worked who were parentified as children tend to be depressed and self sacrificing because of the way they are trained to care for others and not for themselves.

It probably would be better if both of these children were in child care while the parents are working assuming that is what is causing this girl to do so much. If the parents are addicted then they would both be better off in the hands of responsible adults until the parents recovered.

I hope this helps. Please understand that the question is difficult to answer due to the fact that we have little information.

However, thank you for your inquiry.

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