Let’s talk about family.


Family roles may be a phrase that feels very light as it is commonly used. We’re here to talk about the negative side of family roles and the impact they can have on a family.


Family roles can be a sign or symptom of a dysfunctional family. They can show how a family has compartmentalized their members, rather than understanding each individual as the unique person they are. These roles are called Family Survival Roles because they are coping mechanisms for surviving within a dysfunctional family. They are ways to find security and safety in an uncomfortable and unnatural environment.



Here Are Five Common Family Roles People Find Themselves In:


The Enabler

The enabler allows destructive behavior to occur without putting a stop to it. In fact, the enabler supports addicts as they spiral downward. This person can be an agent of chaos within the family unit and aid in the toxicity within the family.



The Hero

The hero is often the oldest child within the family, but isn’t always. They can be viewed as having it all together and having outward/visible success. They are involved in their community and social groups and seem to be very happy and content on the outside. But internally, they struggle and battle with themselves, and this is often overlooked by other family members due to their outward togetherness.



The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the one that is the focus of the family’s attention for trouble. They often appear to not care about the consequences of their actions. This person can also be an agent of chaos within the family and everyone is waiting to see what their next move might be. They can cause tensions and anxiety amongst other family members. They can also feel constrained by the watchful eyes of everyone, which can encourage them to continue acting out.



The Lost Child

The lost child is the most soft spoken child, who often prefers to stick to themselves within the family unit. Their quietness is a coping mechanism within a dysfunctional family. They operate by the motto “out of sight, out of mind.” They avoid talking or speaking up in order to stay out of the trouble in the family.



The Mascot

The mascot is commonly the youngest child of the family. This is the child that the family will try to protect at all costs. This may seem like a good thing, but often the things they are sheltered from are things that are going on within the family itself. The reality of a family is important for everyone in the family to understand and be aware of, and when it is hidden from a family member, it can be damaging to their future selves.




While reading these roles, did you identify with any? Or did you maybe automatically think of another family member while looking through the description of one?


There isn’t anything wrong with feeling familiarity within one of these roles. Or to think of a close family member. It becomes a problem when an individual gets trapped inside of this role and doesn’t feel as though they have a voice or a way out. These are coping mechanisms, and there is validity to finding ways to cope. But it is the job of the family to come together and operate as a unit out of love rather than confining its members to boxes–to roles and tasks they feel the need to operate within. 


Another important thing about family roles, is to know when you are the one putting somebody else into the box. Are you making your children feel like the lost child or the mascot? Hopefully not, but if you are it is never too late to start to fix the problem.


It starts with an open conversation and an attempt to understand. If we care enough to fix the problem, we should also care enough about the individual to want to know them outside of who they are as a family member. 


We can begin to learn their dreams, their hopes, their desires, their motivations, their deepest fears, and so much more. It’s important to let our family know that we do care. When we make our relationships in our family more intimate and more personal by reaching out, it is easier to avoid these family survival roles. 


An open family environment that is comfortable with each other and doesn’t feel forced to hide within a role is ideal.


We encourage you to start that conversation today. Reach out to your family and show them that you care and want to fix the problem. The first step is as simple as saying: “I just wanted to see how you are feeling today?”