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Family Roles and Characteristics

 

FAMILY HERO

SCAPEGOAT

LOST CHILD

MASCOT

CHARACTERISTIC AGES

Oldest child

May be second child

May be third child

May be youngest child

SCHOOL CHARACTERISTICS

Makes good grades

Fails in school

Quiet, shy, often goes unnoticed

Class "cut up"; class clown

OUTER CHARACTERISTICS

A leader; 

Lots of activities; 

Admired; 

Goes from accomplishment to accomplishment; 

Teachers brag about; 

Serious, seldom plays; 

Adult-like, extra mature; 

Seems to:
"Have it made"
"Have it all together"; 

Relatives dote on; 

Helpful at home; 

Successful away from home

Rebellious; 

A "screw up"; 

Angry; 

May try to compete with the hero but loses out; 

Stops trying to please family, may withdraw; 

Compared to older brother or sister; 

Puts on "tough act"; 

Early chemical use; 

Girl may get pregnant; 

Runs with peers who are like him

Loner; 

Ill at ease with others; 

May read, listen to music or look at TV a lot; 

Tries not to be a bother; 

Strong attachment to animals; 

No close friends

Happy-go-lucky; 

Disruptive; 

Hyper-energetic; 

Family regards as fragile - in need of protection; 

Keeps focus on self

INSIDE CHARACTERISTICS

Inadequate - Never Good enough; 

Scared, guilty, lonely

Feels left out in family; 

Feels like misfit; 

Needs attention but can't ask for it; 

Lonely, guilty, hurt

Feels different; 

Feels like an outsider; 

Low self worth; 

Feels forgotten

Fearful - anxious (sees something is wrong but no one acknowledges it); 

Confused - in the dark; 

May feel crazy

This document courtesy of:
A.C. Holler
Pyramid Counseling Center
Summerville, SC

 

Adult Child Characteristics: Alcoholic & Dysfunctional Families Codependent behaviours (listed by Janet Woititz), developed in response to alcoholism and dysfunction, that hamper success and the enjoyment of life

Regardless of "how we got there", most adult children have in common a set of dysfunctional ways of behaving which interfere with (or simply take the joy out of), daily living. Working the program helps us to recognize these for what they are- leftovers from something missed along the way in growing up- and to develop more effective ways of living. Understanding and accepting these characteristics, looking at their roots and learning better ways of living are critical to recovery.
Just as there is no absolute definition of an "adult child", different authors use different words to express the characteristics that adult children most often share. Nonetheless, the picture they paint is fairly consistent. Janet Geringer Woititz, author of Adult Children of Alcoholics, identified the characteristics as follows:
1. Adult children guess at what normal is.
2. Adult children have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.
3. Adult children lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Adult children judge themselves without mercy.
5. Adult children have difficulty having fun.
6. Adult children take themselves very seriously.
7. Adult children have difficulty with intimate relationships.
8. Adult children over-react to changes over which they have no control.
9. Adult children constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10. Adult children feel that they are different from other people.
11. Adult children are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
12. Adult children are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
13. Adult children are impulsive.

Characteristic 1. Adult children guess at what normal is.


There is no frame of reference for what it is like to be in a normal household. You also have no frame of reference for what is O.K. to say and feel. In a more typical situation, one does not have to walk on eggs all the time. Because you did, you became confused. Many things from the past contributed to your having to guess at what normal is.
Characteristic Index

2. Adult children have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.


In a functional family, the child has this behaviour and attitude to model. The child observes the process and the child may even ask questions along the way. The learning may be more indirect than direct, but it is present. Since your experience was so vastly different, it should be no surprise that you have a problem with following a project through from beginning to end.
Characteristic Index

3. Adult children lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.


Lying is basic to the family system affected by alcohol. It masquerades in part an overt denial of unpleasant realities, cover-ups, broken promises and inconsistencies. Lying as the norm in your house became part of what you knew and what could be useful to you. At times, it made life much more comfortable. If you lied about getting your work done, you could get away with being lazy for a while. It seemed to make life simpler for everybody.
Characteristic Index

4. Adult children judge themselves without mercy.


Your judgment of others is not nearly as harsh as your judgement of yourself, although it is hard for you to see other people's behaviour in terms of a continuum either. Black and white, good or bad, are typically the way you look at things. You know what it feels like to be bad, and how those feelings make you behave. And then if you are good there is always the risk that it won't last. So either way you set yourself up.
Characteristic Index

5. Adult children have difficulty having fun.


Characteristic Index

6. Adult children take themselves very seriously.


These two characteristics are closely linked. You didn't hear your parents laughing and joking and fooling around. Life was a very serious, angry business. The tone in your house put a damper on your fun. Eventually, you just went along with everybody else. Having fun just was not fun. The spontaneous child within was quashed.
Characteristic Index

7. Adult children have difficulty with intimate relationships.


The feelings of being insecure or having difficulty in trusting, and of questions about whether or not you are going to get hurt are not exclusive to adult children. These are problems most people have. It is simply a matter of degree, your being a child of a alcoholic caused the ordinary difficulties to become more severe.
Characteristic Index

8. Adult children over-react to changes over which they have no control.


The young child of an alcoholic was not in control. The alcoholic's life was inflicted on him, as was his environment. In order to survive when growing up, he needed to turn that around. He needed to begin taking charge of his environment. This became important and remains so. The child of the alcoholic learns to trust himself more than anyone else when it is impossible to rely on someone else's judgement.
Characteristic Index

9. Adult children constantly seek approval and affirmation.


The message you got as a child was very confused. It was not unconditional love. The definitions were not clear and the messages were mixed. "Yes, no, I love you, go away." So you grew up with some confusion about yourself. The affirmations you did not get on a day-to-day basis as a child, you interpret as negative.
Characteristic Index

10. Adult children feel that they are different from other people.


Feeling different is something you have had with you since childhood and even if the circumstance does not warrant it, the feeling prevails. Other children have had the opportunity to be children. You did not. You were very much concerned with what was going on at home. You could never be completely comfortable playing with other children. You could not be fully there. Your concerns about your home problems clouded everything else in your life.
Characteristic Index

11. Adult children are either super responsible or super irresponsible.


Either you take it all on or you give it all up. There is no middle ground. You tried to please your parents, doing more and more, or you reached the point where you recognized it did not matter, so you did nothing.
Characteristic Index

12.Adult children are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.


The alcoholic home appears to be a very loyal place. Family members hang in long after reasons dictate that they should leave. The so-called "loyalty" is more the result of fear and insecurity than anything else, nevertheless, the behaviour that is modeled is one where no one walks away just because the going gets rough. This sense enables the adult child to remain in involvements that are better dissolved
Characteristic Index
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13. Adult children are impulsive.


They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviours or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
Characteristic Index