Children from Addictive Families

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Children from addicted families take on roles that have certain characteristics.  This is how the roles show in a family but they do not necessarily have to appear in this order: 

  1. The oldest child is usually the Hero who is overly responsible, does well in school or sports, and brings pride to the family. 
  2. The Scapegoat child gets attention through negative behavior, maybe is sick a lot, has a
  3. The Lost Child is shy, quiet and introverted. When they do come out of their rooms, they tend to follow their siblings. 
  4. The Mascot or the clown use humor in either a positive or negative way to get attention. 
  5. In some models there is a Placator child who takes care of others and tries to make everyone happy.

            Children of addiction need to know that they are not alone.  They have such shame about what's going on in their families (which is sometimes why they prefer to isolate in life) and they need to know that other children have parents or relatives who use addictive substances.  They also need to know that what's going on with their parents isn't their fault.  Blaming themselves for their parents' addiction leads to low self esteem.  They need to know that addiction is a disease.  That their parents are sick, not evil and that addicted people can and do recover.  They also need to know that they deserve help for themselves and that there are adults in school systems, at churches, in therapy offices and in their lives who will be able to help them. 

            These roles in childhood and adulthood are discussed further in Karen's book. You can check out Karen's book here, at

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