The book The Family, by John Bradshaw, was published back in 1988.  I’ve been rereading it.  It’s a great book if you want to look at family dynamics and the roles we play to get our needs met.  He goes into detail even beyond the idea of the scapegoat, the superhero and the lost child.  There are diagrams, case studies, and rules of a “functional family”.  What are the rules of a good functioning family?  I will list them here from the book.

1.  Problems are acknowledged and resolved.

2.  The five freedoms are promoted.  All members can freely and appropriately express their perception, feelings, thoughts, desires and fantasies.

3.  All relationships are dialogical.  Each person is of equal value as a person.  Children’s developmental limits are taken into account.

4.  Communication is direct, congruent, and sensory-based – i.e. concrete, specific, and behavioral.

5.  Family members can get most of their needs met.

6.  Family members can be different.

7.  Parents do what they say.  They are self-disciplined disciplinarians.

8.  Family roles are chosen and flexible.

9.  Atmosphere is fun and spontaneous.

10.  The rules require accountability and consequences.

11.  Violation of others’ values leads to guilt.

12.  Mistakes are forgiven and viewed as learning tools.

13.  The family system exists for the individual’s well-being.

14.  Parents are in touch with their healthy shame.  (Bradshaw, 1988)


I found this list interesting.  It sets the goal for what a healthy looks like.  I highly recommend reading this if you want to know more about healthy families, what families with an addict look like, the roles they play; he also covers other kinds of addictions that occur in families like eating disorders or work addictions.