Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Popular Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Each one of the family roles in alcoholic families is formed to adapt to an unpredictable environment.

Each role carries it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

These roles were identified by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse


Five Family Roles In Alcoholic Families


The Enabler Family Role

Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Often emotionally close to the alcoholic. May be the spouse or the first born.

The enabler makes excuses, shields and protects the alcoholic from natural consequences.

The enabler family role is often overly responsible. Al-anon can be a good resource for this alcoholic family role.


The Hero Family Role

Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Usually the eldest child.

The hero seeks affirmation or praise but they don’t feel deserving of it. This family role may tolerate abuse in their relationships.

By helping others they gain control in their environment. They may not believe they deserve happiness.

The hero is often known as a perfectionist or workaholic and is often overly responsible and overly independent.

Despite improving the perception of the family with their overachievement, the hero often has feelings of low self-worth.


The Scapegoat Family Role

Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Typically the second child.

This alcoholic family role attracts blame but then may complain about being picked on or unfairly blamed.

Often acts out negatively and operates from a sense of resentment.

May have explosions of anger, antagonize or purposely annoy others. May partake in risky behavior.

*highest rate of alcoholism among the alcoholic family roles


The Mascot Family Role

Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

This child is usually somewhere in the middle among the order of children.

The mascot may be viewed as the class clown.

They are often an entertainer who makes friends easily.

They are amusing and often times their intention is to diffuse conflict, distract and make light of problems.

They may have feelings of unworthiness. 


The Lost Child Family Role

Family Roles In Alcoholic Families

Usually the youngest of the alcoholic family roles.

This family role often isolates and doesn’t ask for help. Some may not engage in intimate relationships due to an intense fear of abandonment.

Often viewed as a good employee or a pleasure to have in class.

The lost child is typically a good observer and listener who doesn’t ask for much.

Often does not establish close friendships and avoids drawing attention.


More on Alcoholic Family Roles


Each of the dysfunctional family roles is an adaptation to an unpredictable environment and carries it’s own strengths.

They will use their strengths to the point of dysfunction and this often continues until treatment.

As a family unit, the roles work together to compensate for the alcoholic, which makes alcoholism a family disease. The family unit as a whole enables the alcoholic.

Acting outside of their roles is perceived as a safety risk and is not welcome in the family of alcoholism.

When family dynamics change it is possible that roles will change too. Many people can relate to multiple roles at some point during their childhood.

An only child may have experienced all of the alcoholic family roles.

Claudia Black, an expert in family dynamics describes a more contemporary theory of the dysfunctional family.

Claudia Black describes four other family roles (some similar to these) that you can read more about here


Family Dysfunction

Abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group



Often times an alcoholic exists before the children.

If so, since birth the children have compensated in some form to alcoholism.

The elephant in the room is as ordinary to them as the kitchen sink.

The alterations of their character are engrained and it becomes difficult to move outside of what they perceive as safe.

They often feel empty, isolated or feel that something is “off” inside them.

This was the first book I came across on the topic.


My brother found it in a box of free books.


Here is a link to groups for Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families

150+ Addiction Resources and Statistics from around the World



“Until you make your unconscious conscious,

it will direct you and you will call it fate”


Carl Jung




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Family Roles In Alcoholic Families


Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families World Service Organization, Inc. (2006). Adult Children of Alcoholics. ACA WSO ICS.

Margasinkski, A. (2018). The Model of Psychological Roles in Alcoholic Families Needs to be Revised. Glob J Add & Rehab Med. 2018; 5(1): 555655 DOI: 10.19080/GJARM.2018.05.555655


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