what do the children gain in their roles as parents and what do the children lose in their roles as parents.
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The Walls parents were either not there for their children or hopelessly inept at parenting. The kids took care of each other out of necessity. Jeanette, for example, takes the care of Maureen the very day she was born. As Jeanette cradles the newborn in her harms, she promises to always be there for her and take her away one day (which she does) from the disfunction of her parents. Another example is Brian taking chocolate away from his own mother and distributing it among his starving siblings.