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Addiction Articles

Family Roles

When addiction becomes a problem for an individual, it is not just the individual's problem. The family is always effected by the addiction, as well as any close friends, work and school relationships, financial health and leagal staus.  Addiction has widespread effects, but there are some major effects within the family and certain ways in which the family may react when addiction is within the home. The following article explains the various roles assumed by children in households riddled with addiction.  These roles are generally assumed as protection or escape for the children from their home horror, but found to be very common among children who do not have any other recource.

Family Roles of Children in Homes of Addicts and Codependents

In the family dynamic as it relates to alcoholism and addiction, the children in the family play variety of roles depending on their individual methods of coping with addiction in their home lives. There are many different ways children deal with the pain of having to live with the chaos of addiction, some blatantly telling of problems at home and others which keep the problems very well camouflaged. These behaviors are identified by the roles played by the child in the middle of a home torn by addiction, and are coping mechanisms adopted to escape the pain and dysfunction of living with addicted and co-dependent parents. Some examples of these roles are as follows.

  • The class clown draws attention away from the pain and dysfunction at home by entertaining others. This child is "cute". He or she is always truly immature,but plays up the immaturity to draw attention away from the big people who are the dangerous dysfunctional addicts. Inside, this child is filled mostly with insecurity.
  • The disappearing child adopts other families and stays away from the fray at home, or disappears into his or her roomand does solitary activities such as building models. This child is an extreme introvert. He or she is quiet and withdrawn, always avoiding social interaction. The favorite escape for this child is withdrawal into a fantasy world.
  • The scapegoat child acts out, gets into trouble, and gains attention while deflecting attention away from the addicted parents. This child is constantly in trouble. There is open defiance of authority, with anger the favorite escape. This child is most likely to sport an outrageous personal appearance utilizing whatever is currently "in". Since the beginning of the 21st century this is typically various body piercings tattoos, the "gothic" look, or perhaps brightly colored or spiked hair.
  • The hero child is the child who fantasizes that if he or she accomplishes enough, then the whole family will be "o.k.". This child is overly consciencious, conforms to all the rules, and constantly seeks approval. In spite of being a high achiever, the hero child always feels inadequate.
  • The super enabler is usually the child closest to the addict emotionally. This child isthe family "workhorse". Typically, if a daughter, this child assumes the household chores left undone by both the addict and the codependent. If a son, this child is constantly trying to protect his mother if the addict is his father. Inside, he or she typically has low self esteem and there is much unexpressed anger. The favorite fantasy and role is that of the martyr as well as the tendency towards hypochondria as a mechanism to get attention.

These examples can serve as a general outline for some roles played by children in the homes of addicts and codependents. These behaviors can vary to different degrees depending on the individual child, but more often than not, some very close variation of one of the aforementioned behviors will be the result of growing up in under addicted and codependent parents.

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