Dysfunctional Family Roles


Within the dysfunctional family of origin we chose or are assigned roles which we play out. We adopt these roles usually when one family member has a serious problem such as an addiction, and the relationships within the family are strained. These roles are how family members divvy up emotional responsibilities.

There are 5 roles which are played, which role or roles do you play?

1- The Hero

Often the eldest child. The family hero provides self worth for the dysfunctional family system.

They will be a high achiever who works hard for approval and an independent life from their family. Beneath the defense of appearing successful and together the family hero will feel angry, confused, inadequate and lonely.

2- The Scapegoat

The scapegoat’s defense is acting out, they may appear sullen and defiant. The scapegoat may get into problems with their behaviour and behave recklessly. The scapegoat may also appear hostile or super sensitive but underneath this they feel angry, lonely and rejected. The scapegoat provides distraction and focus for the family system.

3- The Mascot

Provides humour for the family, they will receive much attention and be hyperactive and ‘cute.’

Although they appear jolly and funny beneath this they are afraid, insecure, lonely and confused.

4- The Chief Enabler

This person is super responsible and provides responsibilities within the family system. They are self blaming, powerless and manipulative, they will also be in lot of denial about the family and the problems within it. Although the chief enabler may appear fragile they are really angry, afraid, feeling guilty and in a lot of pain.

5- The Lost Child

Provides a sense of relief for the family. They are independent, passive, distant and withdrawn. The Lost Child will appear as aloof and quiet or rejected. They feel insecure, lonely, confused and afraid.


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