All children living in homes where addiction is present experience some sort of impact. Some of their reactions are predictable, while some dynamic behavior combinations are completely unique and organic to each child. These reactions are defenses and are all situationally established to create a sense of safety or relief. Claudia Black, Ph.D. and national expert on the Family Disease of Addiction, has researched the patterns of reactions that children experience. She identifies one of these childhood roles as “The Scapegoat”.
The Scapegoat, or “Acting Out” child, will cause disruption in their own lives and in the lives of other family members. Sometimes unconsciously, their behaviors serve to distract everyone from the real issues. These behaviors are attention seeking in nature and also serve as a legitimate cry for help.
This child often appears to have difficulty making good decisions, which is evidenced by the consequences of their poor choices. Some struggle with academics, truancy issues, or criminal behavior. Teen pregnancy, and issues with their own chemical dependency use, can become a part of this child’s disruption. Their behaviors often are noticed by their family, and attention is given to address them. However, they divert attention from the larger issue in the family: addiction. Often, the child who acts out creates a focus in the family which allows parental alcoholism or addiction to not be addressed.
Although the “Acting Out” Child typically has some undesirable behaviors, the “Scapegoat” part of them is equally important to be aware of. These children feel like acting out is the only recourse they have in the family, or that they are acting this way because they haven’t had a chance to learn anything different in their family. There is a tendency for this child to continue blaming others for their situation well into their adult years. This can result in continued negative behavior, even once they reach an age where they are empowered to make beneficial choices for themselves and their lives.
On April 29th, Claudia Black will be presenting at a workshop sponsored by The Retreat which identifies this script, and others, and will discuss the paths for further healing. The workshop is titled: “Transforming Families: From Script to Choice,” and we’ll be exploring these scripts in this blog in the months leading up to her workshop.
For more information, or to register, Click Here!