Replacement Children: The Inadequate Replacement

This is Part 2 of a three-part series.

Read Part 1: Subsequent Siblings and Replacement Children

Read Part 3: Replacement Children: The Gift Child

In my research study about subsequent children I found that there seems to be two types of replacement children: the inadequate replacement child and the gift child. The clinical literature speaks predominantly about the inadequate replacement child, which is what I will discuss here. The inadequate replacement child is what most people are referring to as they reference the replacement child.

So, as we know, replacement children are conceived with a hope and desire to replace a deceased child. Parents may not be fully aware of the hopes and expectations which they are placing upon their newborn. This can quickly lead to inadequate replacement dynamics.

Inadequate replacement children are viewed as being unable to measure up to their deceased siblings, and as a disappointing replacement. They obviously come into the world as unique beings with their own personalities and needs. They are unable to replace the lost sibling as they are different people. Parents may react with disappointment, sorrow or anger as they realize that the new baby will not replace the lost one, or take away the grief and void in the family.

There are obviously negative consequences to be compared (unfavorably) to a deceased sibling. Inadequate replacement children are prone to feeling as if they are never good enough, and to difficulties in forming their identity (because there was an underlying pressure to take on another’s identity, and their identity was seen as being wrong or not good enough.)

Replacement dynamics vary greatly in intensity, and they often shift and change as the family grows. In some families a child may be seen as an inadequate replacement by one parent, but not by the other. As the subsequent child surpasses the age of the deceased child comparisons become more difficult and the replacement dynamics might lessen.

Please refer to the page Replacement Children: The Gift Child for information about that type of replacement dynamic.

Continue reading to Part Three: Replacement Children: The Gift Child