Promotion to Parent

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Bailey: Who died and put you in charge of this family, anyway?
Charlie: Mom and Dad.


A side effect of Parental Abandonment that occurs when the trope applies to siblings. The first born takes over the role of parent - making 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—code for "sex makes you evil," by the way—and 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.

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 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.

See Children Raise You for cases when a kid have to play parent to an "adult" (using the term loosely enough). Compare to Big Brother Instinct.

Examples of Promotion to Parent include:

Anime and Manga

  • The whole premise - played for laughs - of Beelzebub. Teenage thug Tatsumi Oga finds himself mystically bound to a demon baby and has to care for him, and he cannot hand the baby over because due to the terms of the mystical bonding stating that he will die if he do so.
  • 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.
  • The oldest sister in Neo Ranga
  • Ralph Werec in Soukou no Strain 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.
  • The better members of the Amestrian military embody this trope for Ed and Al. These relationships are more emphasized in fan fiction, where some stories have one of them, usually Roy, who gets paired with Riza, eventually adopting the Elrics and such.
    • And then there's Ed in the first place. He's as much of a father to Al as he is an older brother.
  • 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."
    • Although when they first turned up in the manga Mokuba was an evil, cheating little creep who attempts Yuugi and Jonouchi's murders, and then an example of how evil Seto was, since while Mokuba is crying and saying he just wanted 'Seto-sama's' approval Seto says things like 'In the world of games, there's no place for brotherly affection! Until you understand this, you'll never be anything but a loser!' and proceeds to put him in the mindcrush-simulation box that has already caused heart attacks and breakdowns, since those were the terms of loss. Yuugi rescues him, of course.
      • Then Yuugi (or better said, Yami Yuugi) mindcrushes Seto again, and when he gets his heart-puzzle back together and finishes his second round of catatonia, he loves Mokuba again from that point on. And the kidnappings begin.
    • Jun Manjyome's older brothers on 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.
    • Seto Kaiba was promoted to parent when he fired them.
  • Brock of Pokémon in his debut episode. He was left in charge of Gym and his 9 siblings, when his parents left Wandering the Earth. Arguably, he holds the same position within Ash's group as well.
    • Misty to Togepi, anybody?
  • Nori from Rozen Maiden tries to be this to Jun, but she's not really cut out for it... most of the time.
  • Yuuta from Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, he was just a 19-years-old college freshmen when his older sister asked him to take care of her daughters for a week while she and her husband were gone on vacation... then they died in the air flight. The three girls would be separated into different homes, taken by different family relatives; the girls didn't want to be separated, seeing this dire situation Yuura volunteered to become their guardian; the family agreed, but they're one step away of taking the girls away if the young and stubborn Yuuta fails to raise them properly.
  • Related: In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, 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.
    • Well, 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 aunt by adoption (due to Fate being too young at the time to adopt her 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 pretty much 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 adapting" her new "family" in A's....
      • She even explicitly refers to them as her "children," and in 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 supports her family entirely by doing tricks in a park.
  • 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 Koumi 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.
    • Amusingly, Cross to Allen when he first found the boy as shown in Chapter 206, where said character admitted to having no idea how to care for a child. Cross eventually learns how to cook and do the laundry, making this more of a promotion to housewife.
  • 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.
  • 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 ½ 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. Koidachi of course favors her father, and it's not like Tatewaki has done that great a job of "parenting" Koidachi, but considering the choices are Tatewaki or his father - it's one of the few times Tatewaki comes off very favorably.
  • Ichiyō in Cross Game
  • In 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."
  • In GetBackers, 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 on 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 Shokojo Sera 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 Tekkon Kinkreet 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 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.
  • Played with in Captain Tsubasa. Koujiro Hyuga's Yamato Nadeshiko 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.
  • Fifteen year old Sumi of Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume) is an example of this. Without having her own parents around, Sumi is forced to take on the motherly role for the adopted siblings that her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home with him. This can apply to a lesser extent for Eisuke, though his primary motivation for raising the children is so that he can put them to work for his future business empire.
  • Naruto: It is strongly believed that Tsunade took her apprentice and Sexy Secretary Shizune in as a sort of surrogate daughter, after Tsunade's fiance Dan, who also happened to be Shizune's uncle and, as far as we know, her only living relative, was killed in battle.
  • 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.
  • A bit of a subversion in Ouran High School Host Club, in that Haruhi isn't a pseudo-parent to any younger siblings. But, because of her mother's death and her father's long work hours, Haruhi does most of the work at home, cleaning and cooking for her father and otherwise trying to take care of him.
  • Michael Garret of Gun X 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 has been taking care of his brother Hashizou ever since their father's death. In a subversion, Go's mother Yoko is still alive... but Hashizo's mother is 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.
  • In Ai Yori Aoshi, Aoi's mother took Miyabi Kagurazaka in after her parents, who had long served the Sakurabas, died in a car accident, and considers her her other daughter. Miyabi officially gets adopted in the Distant Finale.
  • 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: Kami no Puzzle 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.
  • In Scrapped Princess, Raquell is more or less forced to play the mother to her bickering younger siblings Shannon and Pacifica after the rest of their household is killed by The Government.
  • 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.

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 him.
  • 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.
  • 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 seemed to be promoted to father of Batman's Anti-Hero son, Damian.
  • 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.

Fan Works

  • In the Dangerverse series, Hermione's parents are killed by Voldemort when she's still a baby, and she's raised by her big sister, Gertrude Danger.


  • Nani of Lilo and 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.
  • 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.
  • Christina Applegate's character in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.
  • David in indie horror film The Hamiltons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mario got a Promotion to Parent in The Movie of Super Mario Bros This wasn't explained very well, which has led some people to suspect incest was involved.
  • 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 film and their restoration of an old robot that they use for fighting, Charlie and Max gradually become closer.


  • 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.
  • The type 2 variant is played brutally 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 the 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.
  • In C. S. Lewis's 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.
  • 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 through 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. 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 novel 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.
  • 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 to him, 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.
  • Happens in K. A. Applegate'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.
    • And 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.
  • 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 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.
  • In V. C. Andrews' 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 each's 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.
  • 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 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 Hunger Games, when Katniss' father dies, her mother goes into shock, forcing Katniss to take over for *both* parents.

Live-Action TV

  • Apollo, to Boxey, after Serina is killed in the fifth episode of the original Battlestar Galactica.
  • Jaime Sommers in the 2007 The Bionic Woman series.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • All of which raises serious questions about Buffy's dad, who not only doesn't come back from Spain where he's living, but doesn't even provide financial assistance for Dawn.
      • I often wonder if that if he knew that Buffy was dead, he would even take custody of her. Would he be forced to?
  • 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.
  • In Bull episode "A Girl Without Feelings", the defendant is a diagnosed sociopath who is accused of murdering her brother because of a dispute when he was applying for guardianship. As she says on the witness stand her brother loved her "even when she could not love him back" or in other words her feeling of self interest came out to be a type of love for him -- just not as we know it -- and she was no more likely to murder her brother than anyone else. It was just a family dispute over how much freedom she could actually be trusted with.
  • Fiz in Coronation Street has to act as mother to her younger brother Chesney, after their mum Cilla abandoned them.
  • 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 family after his parents 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 The Good Doctor, Shaun Murphy's younger brother raised him because their father was abusive and Shaun was autistic.
  • In Heroes, it's strongly implied this was the case for Nathan and Peter Petrelli: in the pilot, their mother 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'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.
  • Spencer in iCarly. Their father is in the military and hasn't even been seen on the show at all; the mother is dead/abandoned them.
  • 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.
  • 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 recently 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 and Rodney's mother died when Rodney was a baby and their father left as soon as Del was eighteen, so Del Boy had to raise Rodney himself.
  • 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, after both parents are killed by a drunk driver.
  • In 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 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.
  • In 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.
  • 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.

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 her older brother Tony since their real mother died.

Video Games

  • 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). I know his older brother became a priest, but come on!
  • 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 but 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.
  • The Falcoknight Yuuno in Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade raised her sisters, the Pegasus Knights Thite and Thany after their parents, who were Ilian mercenaries, were killed together in the battlefield when Yuuno was a teenager and the others were little girls.
    • Other Fire Emblem examples include Fiora (who raised her sisters Farina and Florina), Uther and Hector of Ostia from the same game as well as Ninian and her little brother Nils; Tethys from The Sacred Stones (who raised her younger brother Ewan alone until she joined Gerik's group and he went to study with Saleh); Forde from the same Sacred Stones (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) and Oscar (Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn) raising Boyd and Rolf in Greil's group.
    • Going even further back in Genealogy of the Holy War are half-brothers Alvis and Azel of Velthomer. Azel's mom was one of the maids working for Alvis' dead mother and died some time ago, and their father Lord Victor was pretty much Driven to Suicide at some point, so Alvis took upon himself the duty of helping raise young Azel. Alvis 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 Alvis betrays and slaughters all of them. Other sources, however, hint that Azel may have been spared by Alvis, but died of illness and grief some time later.)
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn also provides Micaiah and Sothe, at least at the beginning of their relationship, but people generally avoid thinking about it as they find the Not Blood Siblings squicky enough as it is.
  • 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.
    • The first Gun Survivor has Lott taking care of his little sister Lilly once their parents are zombified.
  • Although they're not related by blood, Terry Bogard adopts Geese Howard's child Rock in his Fatal Fury 3 ending (although that specific scene doesn't take place until the ending of the sequel, Real Bout Fatal Fury, where Geese actually dies). He pretty much had to, though: he (unintentionally) killed Rock's father Geese, who in turn had killed Terry and Andy's father Jeff. There's an implication that Geese refused to let Terry Save the Villain because he knew Terry would be a better parent for Rock than he was (as well as saddling him with the aforementioned guilt).
  • 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.
    • In Justice For All, it's revealed that Mia left Maya in their aunt Morgan's care when she left the village to search for her mother Misty. The sisters were unaware of Morgan's jealousy toward Misty and her children, and are upset to find out that their beloved aunt would try to frame Maya for murder.
    • In Investigations 2, Hakari Mikagami becomes Shimon Aizawa's adoptive mother after the death of his mother, Ami. His father, the real president of Zheng Fa, is already dead.
  • 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.
  • Happens in Crescendo Eien Dato Omotte Ita Ano Koro, with Sasaki Ayame taking care of her adopted younger brother, Ryo
  • 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.
  • 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 Earthshattering 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.
  • 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.
  • Indicated to have happened in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn with the Czamaral siblings. They're also the royal family of Morgal, making poor Volechek also the new king of a war-torn nation... still at war. It Got Worse from there for him.
  • In the Katawa Shoujo Akira Satou was this to her 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.

  • 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.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • 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.

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 died. 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.
    • A notable case, since Katara is actually the younger sibling, though Closer to Earth. Even when she and Sokka leave the South Pole, she becomes the Team Mom.
    • It was zigzagged around in the first few episodes, since Sokka was pretty adamant about the duty that Hakoda gave to him: taking care of his little sister.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lt. Green in the original Captain Scarlet, according to promotional material.
  • When Goliath in Gargoyles (the "rookery father" of the Manhattan Clan) goes missing, his second-in-command, 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 Worlds Greatest Heroes is definitely this to Johnny.
  • Yakko in the Animaniacs movie Wakko's Wish.
  • 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 Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Mac's parents are alive and well (Disappeared Dad at least his mom...), however as his mom is a Workaholic, Frankie usually takes the role of his mother at times.

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 family from the Reality Show 19 Kids and Counting, 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 (of Cheaper By the Dozen) 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.
  • The patron saint of Ecuador, Saint Mariana de Jesus de Paredes y Flores, was the youngest of eight kids from a high-class family. Her parents died when she was young, so Mariana was raised by her older sister Josefina and her husband. In fact, due to not being able to go into a monastery, Mariana's mystical activities happened almost exclusively in her sister's household.
  • Charles Lamb, the 18-19th century English author, devoted much of his life to caring for his intermittently insane sister, Mary.