What is Family?

Family Functions:

Many critics have assumed that the family has ‘broken down’. Throughout history, the family has been the major social institution, serving functions such as protection, education and recreation. Given the loss of functions that the family traditionally performed, the increasing specialization and complexity of modern society have led to a dehumanizing and fragmentizing process.

Family Roles:

It is assumed that all parents have the right minds to make good decisions pertaining to the welfare of their children. In the Old Testament for example, Rebecca, the mother of twin boys, Esau and Jacob, loved Jacob more than his brother Esau. She encouraged Jacob to pretend that he was his brother Esau, lied about everything else including putting a sheep skin to appear hairy to get the blessing from their father Isaac. Genesis 27-1-17. Jacob’s life had many disappointments including his future father in-law tricked him about his bride and married his sister instead. Of course he waited 7 more years to marry Rachel whom he loved.

In an addictive or depressed family system the disease becomes the organizing principle. The affected person becomes the central figure from which everyone else organizes their behaviors and reactions, usually in what is a slow insidious process. Typically family members do what they can to bring greater consistency, structure and safety into a family system that is becoming unpredictable, chaotic or frightening. To do this they often adopt certain roles or a mixture of roles.

Many of our neglected and abused children play the role of parents until they are removed from their homes.

Original work regarding family roles was by Virginia Satir, then adapted by Claudia Black and Sharon Wegscheider Cruse to fit the addictive family. Over the course of years the names vary, yet the descriptions fit.

There are different roles that family members play:

  1. Family big apple – the responsible one – shows shame with control, perfectionism, and compulsivity.
  2. Placater, people’s pleaser – shows shame with victimization, depression, and perfection.
  3. Scapegoat, acting out one- shows shame with rage, addictions, and procrastination.
  4. Lost child, adjuster- shows shame with procrastination, and victimization.
  5. Mascot – shows shame with depression and addiction.
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