Functional Family Roles.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

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The varieties of family roles.

In a previous post, and we talked about the way dysfunctional families may create roles which take the focus off the dysfunction.

Well-functioning families create functional roles, which change over time.

Adult roles.

Healthy families require their members to be healthy individuals. Certainly, two people who have mental health issues or disabilities can come together to create healthy families. What those two people need to do is each work on themselves. Two sick people do not result in a healthy couple.

In well-functioning families, the adults need to assume the adult’s role and allow the children to be children. When the children take on too many adult duties, the structure of the family becomes unbalanced. In dysfunctional families, it is common to see young children rushing home from school to care for their preschool siblings because parents are incapacitated due to addictions.

Children who act like adults too early in life are at increased risk to have children themselves at young ages. Never having the opportunity to play as children, they are prone to engaging in excess adult play. Their idea of how to play as adults often centers around drugs, alcohol, or multiple sexual partners. Children who become adults too soon may have difficulty parenting their own children and the cycle repeats itself.

Functional families teach children adult roles by letting them babysit or performing chores but do not deprive children of their opportunity to be children.

The Partner role – Couplehood.

In healthy families, the adults need to have adult relationships. Partners need to maintain the partner relationship. Adults need time to do things with other adults. Parents need to take care to not talk to children about problems they have with their partner. For a well-functioning family, don’t make one of the children your best friend and confidant. Reserve your closest relationship for your partner.

Plan throughout your relationship for life after children. Children need to grow up and live their own lives. Couples who fail to nurture their partner relationship may find they have no reason to stay together once the children leave home.

The Parent Role.

In functional families, parents don’t try to become their children’s best friend. It’s wonderful to foster a close relationship, but sometimes parents need to tell their children no.

The Child Role.

In a well-functioning family, children need the emotion space to play and develop. Play is not a waste of time. Play allows children to try new behaviors. Pushing children too much to grow up and stop playing can result in children whose emotional growth has been stunted. Functional families do not expect children to be able to do things they are not yet mature enough to do.

Few families are always completely functional. But, Functional families encourage their members to fill appropriate roles rather than dysfunctional family roles.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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