Family Roles in Addiction: The Scapegoat Role


Addiction is a family disease.

It affects all areas of the family dynamics ranging from family stability to finances, mental health and the family relationships and unity.

The Stress that addiction places on the family is bigger than just the addict.

Most people will overlook or fail to grasp the fact that addiction is a complex disease.

Treatment for addiction will be much easier if the family unit identify their addicted family roles they have adapted over the years and seek help too. This will play a big part in the healing process of “all” members of the family and their coping roles.

In understanding each role, this will help the family members develop and recover the unit’s health.

This will help the unit be more understanding and  be more sensitive to what each other is going through.

However, remember you can not control other people’s choices, you can only control your own choices and your own life.

We have looked at the Hero in earlier blog and today we will dive on the scapegoat family role

The Scapegoat Role:

The Scapegoats react to the Hero by opposing them.

They quickly realize that the Hero is in difficult, lose-lose situation as far as the dysfunction goes.

They also realize that they don’t get the same validation and acceptance from the parents or others in the unit as they are the “black sheep of the family”.

This gets them to seek validation from people outside of the unit to cope with what is going on in their family.

In most cases they will cope best with other Scapegoats in their own families.

The scapegoat seeks negative behavior in their attempt to help the family turn attention away from the addict and also to attract some attention from the Hero who seems to hog all the positive attention.

Negative behavior as far as they are concerned is better than totally being ignored.

The Scapegoats are in trouble in school at work as they don’t respond well to authority or follow any rules.

Their anger normally gets in trouble with law enforcement, employers and also with finances

Characteristics of the Scapegoats

The people in this role of the Scapegoat are seen as defiant, always acting out at the drop of a pin and take no accountability instead always blaming.

They are however strongly loyal to their peers who are normally other Scapegoats in their own families.

Internally, the Scapegoats lives with the fear of rejection, always feeling like they are worthless to their families. They have a genuine fear of trusting anyone and have a general sense of confusion.

These are the people that most people try to walk away from as they come across as angry and not loyal at all.

If you have a scapegoat family role, there are a few things you will need help in dealing with this internal unhealthy issues.

If the dysfunctions started when you were a child, this could be very embedded by the time you are an adult and will need very deliberate and conscious effort to address issues. It’s never too late to leave all this behind.

How to Help Someone with a Scapegoat Family Role

The Scapegoat need supportive confrontation to address the internal fears and shame.

They will need some structure, acceptance and positive attention.

The family unit has been inconsistent that they find hard to deal with and are assuming the role cope with. They will need consistence to be able to get back or to recover to a healthy living.

To cope with the shadow or fear of being a failure as compared to the overachieving hero family member, they will need a way for their own successes.

They will need to identify opportunities for success.

Most people have a primary and a secondary role; If you find or know that you are a scapegoat, look through the other roles and identify your primary role and also find out if you also have a secondary role.

Final Thoughts

The family is normally a system where each member is assigned a role with or without conscious knowledge.

When a family member struggles with any serious health condition, all family members are affected, addiction does not only affect the addict, the whole family is changed.

The norm in the family is shifted and the family members have to adjust relatively.

If the condition goes on for a long time, the changes are subtle and unconsciously that the family members will not notice.

Most people then assume that everything will be okay if and when the addicted member gets well.

This will only ensure the problem usually continues and in some cases get worse as the unit is intertwined.

Recovery is never easy for the family. It requires going through some discomfort and pain.

The resolve to get out of the comfort level to a new level will help you stay the course no matter what is going on around you.

Irrespective of whether your addicted loved one ever finds their own recovery,  you will learn to grow and be healthy.

If you are a Scapegoat or have an understanding on this topic, leave a comment below, will love to hear your thoughts and experience.


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  1. hello, Zikora,
    this is a great article covering a topic not many are willing to talk about or admit having knowledge of. I had a very close friend that had battled with addiction pass away in the last year due to alcohol and drug addictions.
    It was a long battle for him and his family to deal with all the things in this article you cover. This content here makes me think of my friend and the fact that he is now gone.
    I hope your message here reaches a lot of people going through addiction and help them to understand that if you love someone with an addiction you can not do anything about it you need to try to understand life from their point of view and seek help.
    Thank you for sharing this article, it is very well put together.


    • Hi Thomas, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Thank you also for your comments. I believe we can only try to help. sometimes this will be in time and sometimes it will be too late. Either way, if we try, we will be at peace.

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