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What Are Common Dysfunctional Family Roles?

In a dysfunctional family, children get labels to define them. They’re boxed into a personality trait or an assigned responsibility. Some roles are deemed more desirable in the hierarchy. Nonetheless, the roles are all bad. Each person in a dysfunctional family unit is set up to fail. However, the particular manner of downfall depends on the specific role. Let’s look at the most common options.

“Positive” Roles

Two roles are generally deemed as positive: the golden child and the caretaker. These children might appear put-together from the outside. Undeniably, this is just a façade. Both of these roles can create anxiety and unhealthy interpersonal dynamics.

To begin with, the golden child carries the expectations and weight of looking perfect. They cannot mess up because everyone’s watching them. Moreover, they never receive the opportunity to struggle with something. They must internalize any problems. Significantly, the existence of a golden child breeds the mentality, “Nothing could be wrong with the family because this child is successful and functional.” As a result, the golden child often becomes a perfectionist and people pleaser. They never learn to focus on their wants and needs.

Similar to the golden child, the caretaker must look composed. The family views this child as responsible for everyone and everything. They’re parentified and given duties that aren’t age-appropriate. In particular, they must mediate any issues inside the family. Anytime something goes wrong, they have to jump in and fix it. Accordingly, they’re the reliable, strong person everyone depends on. The caretaker can never rest. This kid must live in a state of hypervigilance and emotional hypersensitivity. In this situation, they may never learn healthy boundaries or how to put themselves first.

“Negative” Roles

Much like the positive roles, there are two roles viewed as negative: the clown and the scapegoat. Children assigned these roles often get into social trouble. Additionally, they fall into depression.

Whenever there’s tension, the clown is ready to crack a joke. They cannot ever turn off their humor. They’re silly, goofy, and immature. What’s more, they may get in trouble at school for their behavior. It’s important to realize that the clown hyper-fixates on others’ emotional states like the caretaker. The clown must defuse any serious issue that arises. They mask the pain everyone’s feeling. Unfortunately, the clown’s feelings and thoughts aren’t taken seriously. This child may begin to feel these parts of themselves don’t matter.

Likewise, the scapegoat is viewed as the screw-up. The parents automatically blame them when something goes wrong. Given that, this child gets outcast from the others. Other children in the family might start treating them negatively as well. Significantly, the scapegoat receives all the anger, heat, sadness, rejection, and shame. Someone must face the consequences, after all. Eventually, this child may start believing all the negative things they hear about themselves. Their self-esteem may plummet. Generally, the scapegoat develops depression and self-loathing.

Dysfunctional families assign children certain expectations and responsibilities. These roles often stifle the child’s development into a well-rounded human being. If you survived this dysfunctional family dynamic, you may wonder how to function as an adult. No matter what role you filled, you likely came out of it with trauma and mental health problems. However, you aren’t stuck in those patterns. At The Guest House, we can help you understand the developmental impact of your childhood. Our mental health professionals will empower you by teaching coping skills and personal development. Call us at (855) 483-7800.