Adult Children of Alcoholic Dysfunctional Families
In the dysfunctional family system, roles limit psycho-social
development because individuality is discouraged “
What you
are” becomes more important than “
who you are”

Each family member’s personality is shaped by the dictation of
the family system, and not through the individual’s own needs,
feelings, temperament and choices.

Dysfunctional family member’s perception of themselves, their
family and their world is colored by the role the family system
has bestowed upon them.

ROLES: the effects of Dysfunction and Dysfunctional families
are devastating to the child/children born into it (also see
"Inner Child").

These effects will last throughout their lives (some can be
minimized and will not necessarily have major negative residual
effects). Unfortunately, that is not so for the Lost Child role.

Children in dysfunctional families adopt these roles as a means
of coping with the day-to-day chaos of family life.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family home,  you most likely
adopted one or more of the roles below.
They are defensive, adaptive and "normal" reactions to severe dysfunction (especially from
alcohol) - that become dysfunctional also (this means, they begin to interfere with leading a
functional, successful and satisfying life).

These are
not psychiatric categories or classifications.

The ROLES:                        * The Lost Child      * The Ghost      * The Adjuster Children  
* The Responsible Child      * The Family Hero                          * The Good Child           
* The Rebel                      * The Problem Child                       * The Acting-Out Child
* The Family Jerk               * The Scapegoat                           * The Rescuer
* The Placater                    * The Mascot                               * The Caretaker
* The Clown                      * The Fixer                                  * The Bully
* The Last Hope

Dysfunction & Roles - "Causes"
A dysfunctional family system is a family in which one or both of the primary caretakers were unable to fulfill
their family responsibilities - or simply didn't do it; or one in which physical, emotional, or sexual abuse was

These children did the best they could, given the circumstances; this is an important thing to
  • Each role is a recognizable separate behaviour pattern or strategy.

  • Adult children will find it difficult to act outside of the family roles they have adopted, for  
    hidden inside, the child feels shame, guilt and in crisis, and they often avoid expressing any

  • The family roles in dysfunctional families are not chosen but adopted by children of
    dysfunctional families as a means of survival. This is particularly evident during times of

  • The “taking on a role” is an unconscious act – it is not deliberate. These roles are played
    right through adulthood: they are part of our learning process. They are products of our
    environment (family, community & cultural)
Walk with Me
Through darkened rooms we'll climb
Past covered dust-filled sculptures in
the night
With hand in Mine we'll fight the
shadows left behind
Till all that's hid within is brought to
Nor tremble at the sights which you
have seen
For if in Me you trust with all your heart
Then all the times of sorrow I'll redeem.
Adult Children, including the Lost Child,  
learn to be consummate actors/actresses
Klaas Tuinman
Dawn Cove Abbey
Deerfield, Nova Scotia 2010: revised 2017
Each of the behaviour patterns, and the personality types that develop, has special
needs - and each type can recover if they are willing.  Roles are behaviour patterns that were

and which can be changed.

PLEASE NOTE: in many ways all Adult Children's traits and behaviours are a type of

  • "Adult Children Of Alcoholics / Dysfunction"
  • behaviours in general: click HERE to read.

  • Few people have all the traits of any of them - and sometimes they have a blend of more
    than one role.
  • Each of the personality types/roles has special needs - and each type can recover if they are
    willing to take the risk in believing they can change and heal. This includes all Adult Children.

  • The information here describes a Personality Type: it describes the traits, behaviour patterns
    and coping strategies of a particular child victim (who became an adult child) from a sick,
    dysfunctional (alcoholic) family.
  • The child did the best it could, with what it knew, what it had and the circumstances it found
    itself in - it is not to blame.

  • It is not an illness someone gets - it is a survival/coping strategy.

  • It is a normal reaction to severe dysfunction - it became dysfunctional also (meaning it began
    to interfere with leading a functional, successful and satisfying life).
  • They lost their inner integration of Mind, Emotions And Spirit, leaving these unconnected and
    in tatters - bits and pieces.
  • It is a form of dis-integration - BUT - in a way where re-assembly is entirely possible!
  • It can also lead to Dissociation
It can be overcome - Healing and recovery are entirely possible through coaching/counselling.

(The Lost Child definitely will require intensive counselling/therapy, and working with Lost Child
victims is my professional specialty).

The “roles” (personality types) that emerge for children in their attempts to make sense of the  
chaos: the personality types are:

The Major victim: The LOST Child (The Lost Child, is also called The Ghost & The Doormat    
and very similar to the
Last Hope Child) are collectively called the Adjuster Child/Children.

The Lost Child is the most wounded inner child of all. I have devoted an entire separate page
to that role. Also see "
Inner Critic" and "Inner Child - Child Within"

NOTE: The descriptions here are the categories: most will not display all the characteristics - some
may, while some will appear to have a blend of these. Remember that these are descriptions, not
definitive, etched-in-stone categories.

As well, some people will display characteristics of more than one of the "roles" - each person
develops their own personal coping style.
Coping ROLES are Survival Strategies
  • Adult Children of Dysfunctional Toxic Families/Relationships - negative strategies.

Roles are primarily behaviour patterns people have, which were developed in childhood as coping
and survival strategies in
dysfunctional circumstances.

While they are
not illnesses or disorders, they do lead to problematical or dysfunction lives for them.
Your family role can define who you are, how you relate to people, how they
relate to you and influence every aspect of your life.

  • People who are able to identify the role they played in their family have a powerful tool for
    changing their lives and improving their relationships.   

Family roles can be as varied and as individual as families are.

  • A family may have "the sick one", "the peacekeeper", "the athlete", "the gifted one", "the
    victim", "the genius" or any other role you can think of.

  • This page describes all but one of the roles. The most severely affected child and the
    associated behaviour pattern is described on a separate page,  "The Lost Child”.
  • The Adult Children's Roles are mostly behaviour patterns people have acquired or developed,
    that began as coping strategies and became a way of life.

  • The behaviours can be changed and new behaviours learned, behaviours and life skills that will
    improve the quality of their lives, on their terms - not anyone else's!
"As long as you keep thinking that it is not your fault (how you feel
that something else must change, you will continue to feel
helpless and powerless. By continuing to play the victim, you will be
totally at the mercy of your environment." -Unknown
LOVE is caring about the freedom of the other.
If parents really care about their child,
they want him or her to be free to enjoy life.
Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside Assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman © 2007-2017

Questions and comments welcomed.
Children of Dysfunctional/Alcoholic Families Coping Strategies

Children Roles - An Introduction
Adaptive Coping & Survival Strategies
Go HERE for a detailed look at the actual Roles