Common Dysfunctional Family Roles:

The Hero:

This person adopts the values and dreams of others-even at great personal cost-in order to maintain his coveted place in the family. He tends to be very guarded about his psychic space, not allowing anyone to get too close.

 

The Enabler/Codependent:

The enabler is the family peacemaker who feels responsible for everyone’s emotional well-being. The concept of “enabling” was originally coined to describe the wife of an alcoholic, when it was discovered her behavior actually set up an unconscious collusion with the substance abuser. This was clear when the enabler or codependent got worse as the addict improved. Enablers are often angry, self-righteous, and over-responsible, coming from families where they took over parents’ responsibilities. They feel they have lost their childhood.

 

The Scapegoat:

The scapegoat is considered the family’s problem child. His behavior is so outrageous that everyone else in the family looks good by comparison. Actually, the scapegoat is unconsciously acting out the unspoken family conflict. When the family focuses on the scapegoat, it stops paying attention to the real issues that need to be resolved. Thus the scapegoat becomes the structure’s “sacrificial lamb”.

 

The Lost Child/Loner:

The lost child is also a performer; however, his philosophy is “disappear and don’t cause trouble.” He may spend most of his time escaping into television, chat rooms, reading, or any activity that helps him be “seen and not heard.” The lost child makes few demands on his parents; he escapes through withdrawal into his own world.

 

The Doer:

The doer is the family’s outstanding performer, the super responsible performance-oriented one who makes good grades, excels in athletics, takes care of siblings, or serves as a surrogate spouse. Self-appointed, the doer is the overdeveloped, overstressed family member.

 

The Mascot:

The mascot is the family clown, comic relief in a stressful situation. Mascots try to joke their way out of anything serious; their laughter covers tears and their humor can become sadistic and “black”.

 

The Manipulator:

The manipulator is the clever controller in the family, the one who instinctively knows how to use any and every trick to assure that he will get what he wants.

 

The Critic:

The critic is negative and faultfinding, using sarcasm and mean-spirited teasing as a weapon to gain power in the family.

 

Daddy’s Little Princess:

This child is the victim of a subtle and intense form of emotional incest in which the daughter is required to fulfill the needs of the father. “Daddy” uses the child by drawing her into adult conversations or activities. He may confide to her about his own problems with his wife or violate her boundaries through sexual grooming or outright sexual abuse.

 

The Saint:

This family member’s worth in the system is dependent on fulfilling a predetermined occupation or course of action, regardless of the needs or wishes of the individual involved.