Dysfunctional families often cause the emotional delegation of responsibilities to fall to certain family members. This can occur in households that have a member suffering from addiction or a codependent relationship. Family members will subconsciously adopt these roles in order to handle the dysfunction within the family.
One role is the hero who is frequently the oldest child. They try to make things seem normal for the rest of the family and for outsiders. They are helpful and cover up for the family by hiding the dysfunction.
Another role is the scapegoat who is frequently in trouble at home or school. The problems within the family are often blamed on this member when in actuality their behavior problems are most likely caused by the dysfunctional family.
The role most frequently adopted by the youngest child is the mascot. They try to make others feel better and are humorous and entertaining. They may be shielded or protected from the dysfunction by other members of the family.
The lost child is another role. These children handle dysfunction by withdrawing from others. They are loners and appear shy. They avoid the dysfunction by trying to disappear completely.
In dysfunctional households in which addiction is an issue there are two additional roles typically occupied by the parents: the addict and the enabler. The addict is considered a central role in which all of the others are influenced and affected. The enabler or caregiver is the one who covers for the responsibilities of the addict and is typically the one 'holding things together' for the rest of the family.