Critical parent 3rd order state vs Parent 1st order state

by Chris White
(Woodacre, CA, USA)

Great site!
Please help me understand the difference between the 1st order Parent ego state and the 3rd order Critical parent ego state.
Thanks so much!
Chris White MD
Director of Essential Parenting

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Nov 29, 2011
Critical Parent
by: Don

Hi Chris,

Basically, the first order Parent ego state describes the general, basic functions of the parent part of our personality. This is the part of us that is akin to Freud's construct of the Super-ego.

The Parent ego state has two functions: To Nurture and Protect. In the ideal, Parents are supposed to be "all about the kids" and put their own needs aside to fulfill those two functions - a very noble calling.

In the Second order map, we see that all three ego states are present in can see the parent part emerging in a two or three year old who plays with her baby doll, by mothering it. The Child is taking in what she sees modeled by mom, practicing that through play, and integrating the learning through repetition thereby imprinting or encoding those "learnings" for later use.

That part of the Child ego state that we call the parent-in-the-child is also known as the "Adapted Child" because it is the part of us that adapts to the functioning (or dys-functioning) of the environment. (This adaptation is actually carried out by the Little Professor)

The Adult-in-the-Child, aka the Little Professor, is the creative part of our subconscious mind that creates "survival skills" such as people pleasing, caretaking, hyper-vigilance, etc, to help the child survive and get survival & dependency needs met - at least to some degree.

The Parent-in-the-Child, aka the Adapted Child, is highlighted in the third Order Map. This is where the "parenting" is encoded - a process also known as socialization. If the Natural Child is not tempered by the socialized, Adapted Child, you would see what we know as "spoiled-child" syndrome - an out-of-control kid who belches in a public place, throws food, screams and throws temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way, runs out into the road without looking both ways, etc. So, socialization and good parenting are of course important. It's the ineffective, abusive, shaming, and otherwise dysfunctional parenting that causes problems:

The Adapted Child is where the Critical Parent this is the result of the parenting we received. It is, in part at least, the essence of our most influential parent. It is the part of the Child ego state that takes in the "shoulds, musts, and ought to's" of our Parent(s)... we may even hear their voice in our head.

The dysfunctional Critical Parent is both demanding and punitive - a Child ego state that acts-out the modeling of a parent. The energy from this ego state may be internalized... perpetuating the abuse of childhood by pointing it at the Vulnerable Child ego state...or externalized, imposing our "book of shoulds" on others.

Hope this clarifies!

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