West Virginia University Logo

Behavioral Roles of Children of Alcoholics

People who work with children of alcoholics have identified certain behavioral roles that develop in childhood and can continue into adulthood. These survival roles have been designated by Sharon Wegcheider-Cruse as follows:

Hero

(Sometimes referred to as "model child") - takes over family responsibilities; can be an enabler of an alcoholic

Positive Characteristics

 

Negative Characteristics

  • responsible
  • achiever
  • independent
  • leader
  • organized
 
  • feelings of low self-worth
  • perfectionist
  • ignores own needs, wants
  • has fear of rejection
  • difficulty in establishing intimate relationships

 

Scapegoat

(Sometimes called "problem child") - child's problems divert attention from alcoholic's behavior

Positive Characteristics

 

Negative Characteristics

  • independent
  • risk taker
  • pleasure seeker
  • enjoys change
 
  • demanding
  • personality problems
  • substance abuse
  • acts out inappropriately
  • accepts displaced blame for family problems

 

Lost Child

demands little and receives same

Positive Characteristics

 

Negative Characteristics

  • good observation skills
  • good listener
  • autonomy
  • not demanding of others
 
  • denies own feelings
  • detached
  • unable to develop close relationships
  • depression

 

Mascot

(Sometimes called "clown") - humor and behavior minimize alcohol issues

Positive Characteristics

 

Negative Characteristics

  • good sense of humor
  • makes friends easily
  • ability to defuse stressful situations
  • good social skills
 
  • attention seeker
  • denies reality of own feelings
  • feelings of unworthiness
  • can be superficial