Day 2: Family Roles

This post is a part of The 15-Day Relationship Challenge. If you’re just now tuning in, click here for the whole series.

What’s My Role?

Good Morning. Welcome back. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Home is where life makes up it’s mind?” Some of us grew up in chaotic homes, while others of us great up in quiet avoidant homes. Regardless of the temperament of the home, we all carry a massive set of assumptions about life that was formed in our childhood homes. 

One of the primary ways our childhoods impact our relationships today is the role we played at home. We all played a role in our family, and we all fill a role (usually a similar one) in our marriages. When I think of the word “role” I immediately associate it with the word “hole.” Our roles come from the holes in our family.

No family is perfect, and these imperfections create holes in family dynamics. Kids come along and desperately want the attention and affection of mom and dad and they want out of the insanity that is a family. They begin to unknowingly try and fill these holes to cope with the craziness. It’s a wonder any of us are even partially functional in life! 

Here is a list of the most common roles that kids play in order to fill the holes at home: 

The do-gooder. Rule follower. High achiever. The chosen one. Straight-A student. They come home on time, rarely offer resistance to expectations placed on them, and have an incredibly high standard of what success looks like. They feel like love is earned and have an inflated sense of importance. “If I don’t do it, no one will. It’s up to me.” They make the family look good. Their pain is masked through performance and perfection. 

The family comedian or storyteller. They are the practical joker, funny guy, and clown. Mascots cut through the tension of the home by making everyone laugh. They stay emotionally distant from difficulties, but know exactly what to say or do to alleviate the seriousness of a fight or stress in the home. Everything is ok for us if we are laughing. They mask the pain through laughter. 

All families are messy, and they need someone to take the blame for why they’re a mess. The scapegoat is easily blamed for the problems at home. Their “acting out” (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc) is a way to cope with the family pain. They get compared to the hero a lot. Scapegoats fill the role of being the container for everyone else to emotionally “throw up” on. Scapegoats are generally the most honest in the family. They tell the truth through actions about how crazy the family is. They mask the pain through acting out. 

Lost Child
The family is so focused on laughing with the mascot, blaming the scapegoat, and celebrating the hero that someone is going to be lost. Lost kids get missed in the drama of everything else happening. Sometimes this looks like being a chameleon (I’ll be whoever you need me to be). They stay just on the outside enough to go unnoticed, away from the drama/mess of the family. They tend to be withholding, silent, and afraid to get close to people. They mask the pain by hiding, being unnoticed.

Some of us filled multiple roles in our family home, and sometimes our parents played some of the roles. The roles we played in our family as kids shape the way we are in our close intimate relationships as adults. Knowing what roles we played is tremendously helpful for how we are as adults. It gives us insight and understanding in how we deal with conflict, failure, risks, and intimacy.

Reflection Questions:

  • What did I notice about me in reading today’s material? 
  • What feelings, thoughts, questions, or stories that came to mind? 
  • What role(s) most closely describe me in my childhood?
  • What stories do I remember that illustrate this? 
  • What did I learn about my family in reading through these roles?
  • How might the role I play be impacting my relationships today?

Think of a story that best illustrates the role you played in your home growing up.


Take 10-15 minutes tonight with your spouse to talk through your day. 

  • What were the highs and lows?
  • Where were you surprised? 
  • Was there anything different about your day because of the assignment(s)? 

From this mornings reading, what stood out to you? If you’re willing, share your answers from the reflection questions.

Assignment Connection
Tell the story you thought of that best illustrates the role(s) you played in your childhood home. 


Laundry List of Adult Children of Alcoholics

You don’t have to have parents who were alcoholics to develop any (or a lot) of these characteristics. All of us grow up in homes with imperfect parents. We develop coping mechanisms from growing up in these sometimes “crazy” family systems. Many of these coping mechanisms are listed below.

If you identify with these, consider attending a 12-step meet (ACOA or ACA are both good ones) to begin working through these.

The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
  10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

(more on this here: