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Are you more parent, adult or child?

August 25, 2008

A parent figure is a voice of authority, someone who likes to ‘teach’ the concept of life. When you go around saying don’t do this, don’t do that and use judgemental words, that’s your Parent ego state in action.

A child figure overrides reasoning to be the voice of delight, anger and despair. When you’re throwing a temper, shrugging your shoulders, teasing, laughing, squirming, and screaming “You’re not the boss of me!” that’s your Child state going off.

An adult figure is your logical side that takes data and processes it by thinking. When you say I think, I see, I believe, in my opinion, that’s your Adult state speaking.

According to a study called transactional analysis, how we interact with one another reveals how our psyche is made up of some combo of Parent-Adult-Child. For example, a manager may put on the Parent ego state and scold an adult employee as though he was a Child. Or a child can use his Parent ego state to scold his actual parents as though the parent is a Child. Mine fluctuates. With friends I’m predominantly Child. At work, depending on the situation, I can switch from mostly Adult to mostly Parent.

Transactional patterns between individuals can build and solidify over time. They can be reciprocal, like

A: “Have you been able to write the report?” (Adult to Adult)
B: “Yes – I’m about to email it to you.” (Adult to Adult)

Or crossed, like

A: “Have you been able to write that report?” (Adult to Adult)
B: “Will you stop harassing me? I’ll do it eventually!” (Child to Parent)

Or covert, like

A: “I need you to stay late at the office with me.” (adult words)
B: “Of course.” (adult response to adult statement, but the wink or grin is a child accepting a hidden motive).

Since the dynamics of each pairing is predictable, if you know in advance whether someone is predominantly Adult, Child or Parent, you can decide whether to engage or avoid a situation. I find it helpul when teaming up people for projects. I notice if I paired up Child with Adult or Adult with Parent, I almost always end up with a riot on my hands.

This stuff is useful for socializing too. So you’re Child and you meet a hot person who shows strong signs of Parent. You might want to think twice about going out with him or her… unless being babied is really your thing. 🙂

Here’s a good wiki article about transactional analysis if you’re interested. You might also find some books on it at the local stores, in the communications section.

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