It All Begins In Childhood

Children in Healthy and Dysfunctional Alcoholic Families

The journey to adulthood begins here
             This brief introduction applies to all Children (all of us)

Children do not grow up in a vacuum: they grow up in environments in which the acquire information,
knowledge, skills, their sense of personhood, as well as the
cultural norms of the society they live in. The
family is the primary environment: it is a sort of micro-culture.

Acquiring culture means, learning that society's "rules", ways, and belief structure: it's value structure.

There are two ways that families influence values and expectations of their children: directly, and indirectly.
Parents directly teach their children values.

Directly,this includes teaching right and wrong, religious education, teaching about interacting with people,
and rules and expectations.

Indirectly, parents indoctrinate, train and
socialize their children by example.

And Children also learn indirectly by watching their parents interact with others, make choices and
determine right and wrong for themselves, and this impacts how they develop their moral self.

NOTE: On the site, "family" refers to: family of birth, adoptive family, step-family, foster family,
institutional family (orphanage, or the travesty of such things as "Residential Schools in Canada ->

Children's (human) brains are developing and are open to new experiences and situations that can either
positively or negatively affect them/us.

It is during childhood, in the family/home, that we learn such things as:
  • such magic words as hello, please, you’re welcome, I’m sorry, and thank you.
  • as well as learning to be honest, to be on time, to be diligent, to show friends our sympathy, as well
    as show utmost respect for our elders, and for all people's rights, etc.
  • Home is where we learn to be clean, not talk with our mouths full, and how/where to properly
    dispose of garbage, for example.
  • And home is also where we learn to be organized, to take good care of our belongings, and that it’s
    not O.K. to touch others.

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war,
we shall have to begin with the children.”
- Mohandas Gandhi
  You may wish to read further on this: See

This is just a cursory look at one form of childhood in general: the "functional" side.

Now we'll have a look at how it's different for children who grow up in dysfunctional environments.
Children From Toxic Dysfunctional Backgrounds. through "roles" and behaviour patterns,
which began as a coping strategies and became a way of life.
  • Life for those who grew actually up in alcoholic or other types of dysfunctional  and toxic homes was
    totally unpleasant: - it was their reality, not just their reading material, movie or a TV series.

  • If you grew up in such an environment or under such conditions, some of the stuff below will trigger
    unpleasant memories: and I apologize for that, but you will find that in that momentary pain that you
    may also experience a tremendous sense of relief - by discovering that somebody understands - that
    you were/are not the only one, and that you haven't been crazy all along.

  • Growing up in a sick, abusive, dysfunctional or alcoholic has devastating effects on the children that
    usually affect them for the rest of their lives.
  • On this page (and the accompanying page about "Roles"), you my discover in which way you were
    affected, and the degree to which it has controlled and ruined your life.
  • For these adult Children, one of the biggest consequences immediately was that they would have a life-
    time problem with nurturing and being nurtured, because that was totally missing in their childhoods.
    A major consequence of that is discussed elsewhere under "Dysfunction" on the "Lost Child
    Role/Syndrome" Page.
All children who grew up in alcoholic families or families with other addictions or negative Dysfunctional
Families (or both) are known as Adult Children of Alcoholics or from Dysfunctional Families (or both).
  • They are called are "children" not because they are still children: but because they are someone's
    offspring - ones who are deeply emotionally undeveloped; they have never "grown up", and are like
    children in an adult's body, in a manner of speaking.

  • The negative consequences of growing up in sick, toxic family environments, on these victims are
    numerous: both at the time they were growing up, and subsequently later in life (perhaps this is why
    you are reading this page at the moment).

  • Dysfunction means "does not work" (or sick). A dysfunctional family/relationship is, or was, one
    where the real actual physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of its members are not met.

  • It is also one where there often is/was physical, mental, sexual, emotional, verbal and spiritual abuse.
Traits and Characteristics of the Lost Child Role/Syndrome - a description

  • Not all Lost Children will have all of the traits and characteristics described on effects.
  • The Lost Child Role and Behaviour Patterns are characterized by disconnected feelings/emotions.
    This has far-reaching consequences for their later personal life, and the lives of those around them.
    Recovery and healing are always possible, and although sometimes it is a long journey, which can be
    difficult, many people succeed.

  • Regardless of their survival, these individuals ultimately become permanent victims of their
    backgrounds: their Inner Child was severely damaged.

  • Adult Children adopted roles” in childhood as a coping or survival strategy.  "Survival" at that time
    simply meant to avoid being hurt, damaged or killed as much as possible.

  • These roles basically were automatic, reflex coping strategies adopted, and then developed into more
    permanent behaviours by children growing up in negative environments.

  • Because these were automatic, the child was hardly aware of them - the responses just became a "way of
    life", and the reason for them, let alone the reason for any particular "role", faded away over the years.

  • Many adults are not aware of it even having happened because it was gradual and subtle: they just kind
    of slowly slipped into them. They did not invent the names for the various roles - others who observed
    and experienced them learned to distinguish between them - and give the names.

  • There are many different roles children in these circumstances and environments take on. This page
    deals with the most severe and devastating one: The Lost Child”. A separate page describes the others.

  • The Lost Child person embodies a role and a particular behaviour pattern that was developed in
    childhood: its effects are similar to those of disorders, because they interfere with, and prevent functional
    (successful) living.

  • Each of the personality types has special needs - each "type" can recover if they are willing to take the
    risk in believing they can change and heal. This includes the Lost Child.
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.
Your family can/will define who you are to a very large extent; 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 and transforming their lives and improving their

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", "the genius, or any other role you can think of - this page deals with the Lost Child Role - the
other "roles" are discussed on a separate page.

If some of the things on this page describe you (or someone you know) - these effects can be undone,
and healing can occur and true survival and recovery happens to many - as it can for you (or them). It
is a difficult, but not impossible challenge.  Do not despair – there is help available, here and elsewhere.

The first step toward change is awareness.
The second step is acceptance.
~Nathaniel Branden