The Mascot: It’s Not all Fun and Games

Posted by in adult children, Louise Behiel, recovery, self help | 32 comments

The last of the four roles to discuss is “The Mascot”. This role is usually taken on by one of the two youngest children in a home with an emotionally absent parent.

When confronted with the stress in the family, this child tries to lighten the mood, usually through humor.  They may also become the family’s social director, doing their best to keep the family funcitoning at a social level.  This will often happen as a result of cajoling, teasing or clowning around.  These children are funny and act silly, desperately working to cover the family’s pain.  In other words, and as with all the other roles, the purpose of this behavior is to divert attention from the stress and tension in the home, the parent’s relationship and the behavior of the other children.

These children are usually immature, often seemingly hyperactive; they are super-cute (especially when young) and can always get a laugh.  They become experts at making fun of themselves, know how to act dumb and are at an elevated risk for addictions.

While everyone laughs,  there is another side to the class clown: he or she is distracting to everyone else and may seem superficial.  They often have difficulty focusing and often fail to develop strong decision making skills.  These are natural outcomes of behavior that is consistently focused on getting laughs.  This child learned very early that laughter reduces tension and eases stress.  It works, so they use it.  But as always with these roles, they become hardened and detrimental.

While this child is causing laughter for everyone else, they are usually lonely, confused and insecure.  Worse, these children are riddled with fear, sadness and pain.  They have trouble identifying their emotions and do not develop the skills to work through their emotions.  Instead they crack a joke or do a pratfall to divert others’ attention.  In the process, the presenting issue goes unresolved. Over and over again.

In hiding from their deeper emotions, Mascots may have difficulty with chronic illness: the ongoing stress of denial breaks down their health.  And just importantly, Mascots fail to become acquainted with themselves.  And as Socrates noted: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. In living from the funny bone, this child gives up the right to be taken seriously or to be seen as competent.

On the other side, adult mascots are known for their kind heart, generosity and ability to listen to others.  After living their lives focused on others, they have a hard time recognizing their own needs or getting those needs met. They give love, but don’t know how to accept it.  They become involved in the helping professions, confusing patients for friends.  Or they get involved with an abusive person, hoping to rescue or save them. And in this relationship, the parental relationship is re-created and children of that relationship end up creating the same roles that dog the siblings of the Mascot.

Recovery is possible.  But it takes awareness and recognition. If the Mascot can step away from the quick laugh or the momentary distraction, healing is possible.

Images courtesy of


  1. Dear Louise
    I am the middle child of 3. My father was a spendthrift, violent alcoholic womaniser and my mother an agressive narcissist. Cute and very intelligent, I would crack jokes to soothe the atmosphere and would get presented to dinner guests to play the piano or sing. This was part of the facade of respectability and success my family liked to project. But whilst my mother would brag about me she was angry at the attention I got and the competition and was -and remains-very unpleasant around me. So many confusing messages of possessive dislike. I am now 57 and every day feel like a fraud about to be found out. After divorcing a man who was angry all the time my current spouse is kind but his problems showing his true feelings, deflecting me with jokes and remaining behind aglass door. He tried to commit suicide a couple of monthago, after cancer surgery and even cracked jokes about that. Even after being in a facility he waved away the need for any further counselling. I have determined to feel better this year. I am seeking therapy and have stopped contact with a mother who dismisses me as a irritant and incompetant. I have stopped looking longingly through the glass at my husband, hoping he will let me into his real life. I have two lovely sons, to whom I have not handed my pain or ill treatment. I love my work, but have stopped saying yes all the time for fear of not being a good sport. I have completed my studies and hope to practice law. Can’tchange others but can start mending me. Their issues were made my own, but have now been packed up and returned.

    • Good for you. Our childhood sets the tone for what we look for, want and accept in adulthood until we consciously make different choices. You’re doing that.
      Good luck

  2. Dear Mrs. Behiel,
    I guess I am a mascot. My mother is an alcoholic, my father himself was dysfunctional (he met his own father when he was 13 due to the war back then) and I have 2 older siblings (7 and 5 years older). I guess I was the funny one until all laughter died. Since then there is only a vastness, which is hard to describe, and a feeling of constantly being overwhelmed. These children often feel lost in this world. They were never asked about their needs. I too became very nearly addicted and I guess I have to watch out every day. One does feel alone – and at the end of the day we really are alone. But thank you for your posts. It’s comforting to know there are others like me. Even if it doesn’t help in the end

    • Remember that there are others like you and many have found healing and forward progress. go to Adult children of Alcoholics and they can help you find your way at no cost, or work with a qualified therapist.

      good luck

  3. Okay Louise, I’m back! lol I think I busted through and figured out a way in under the WordPress radar. Whew, it’s been a nightmare. But I made it!

    I think I’ve seen this personality before. My mother-in-law when she was alive had these tendencies as she was the youngest of seven. I know. And my aunt who was the youngest still acts this way and she is seventy-three. I’m not seeing this in any of my younger siblings. But I’m looking forward to your next post. Very interesting. Makes a lot of sense.

    Thanks Louise! 🙂

    • Karen, I’m glad you got your wordpress issues solved. it’s been a nightmare for many of us.

      this is common behavior in the youngest. so your observations is right on.

  4. After reading all of these posts, you’ve nailed me, my sister and my baby brother. Not really sure where our other brother fits in yet. But my baby brother almost perfectly fits the role of mascot, although he’s still a sweetheart. For a time, when he was a teenager, I worried that he’d become an alcoholic, but he matured and left that behind (thank goodness!).

    Thanks for posting these! They give great insight into the dynamics of a family. Now I’m going to have to read everything again to see where my other brother fits in. 🙂

    • Glad they’ve been of some value to you Kristy. are there just the four of you? usually with 4 children, the roles come out one to one, but every family is different. happy researching.

      • I think they’re great, Louise. And I thought the same thing at the beginning of the series…I’d be able to figure out which category all of us fell into (and yes, there are four of us). But my oldest younger brother…I’m a little puzzled over. 🙂

        • Next week I’m going to look at some of the combinations – you might find him in those. sometimes because of personality a person is more one role but is heavily influenced by another. time will tell.

          • Just checking to see if I can reply from the notifications list on my WP site. If so…can’t wait to see the combinations. Be interesting to try and figure this brother out. 🙂

            • came through just fine Kristy. WP has been flaky with comments lately. sheesh.

  5. I have loved reading these posts, Louise, and I’ve been thinking about them as I think about different family dynamics that are portrayed in the films I watch and the books I read (and in my own family as well). Wonderful job — I’m learning so much!

    • Given your school schedule, Lena, it’s very flattering that you would take the time to stop here to read. Glad they are providing material for consideration. glad you’re learning lots.

  6. Reading them IS like a therapy session! I’ve learned so much just from these posts ~ my husband and I often discuss what we’ve read (I send them to him to peruse) on our walk. It’s always fascinating to hear his interpretation vs. mine. Let’s just say he’s the one type that I’m not! But we both agree that there is wisdom in knowing where certain behaviors come from and from that wisdom comes the courage to change. Thank you again for these great posts.

    • Tameri, you made my day – thank you for letting me know that you and your hubby discuss these posts. that’s wonderful. and made my day. Interesting that you and he are different types. i’m sure that makes for some interesting times in your house.

      And yes the point is to discuss the beginnings of our behavior and look at where we’ve grown and how. wonderful work.

  7. Louise, these posts are fantastic! They are so sad and accurate. Reading them is like a therapy session.

    You are doing a service for all of us. Thank God there are people like you out here doing this hard work.

    Thank you!

    Peace, Jen

    • Jen, thank you so much for your kind words and diligent support. I’m delighted you are finding value in htese posts.

  8. Well, how sad is it that I can see my former self in this description too. So far, I’m 3 of the 4 personality types. Fortunately, while in my late 20’s I recognized my need to re-invent myself and I think I’m a much better person now. I still have those clown tendencies and will resort to foolishness when things got too intense, but I think I’m pretty much able to deal with a lot more conflict that I used to be. And I don’t mind not being the life of the party any more.

    Not that I had a bad upbringing mind you, but my dad is a functioning alcoholic who does not relate well in emotional situations so I can see myself in this role.

    Once again, a very interesting post. I’m a really well rounded mixed up person. Your job must be really interesting.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Patricia, you’ve done a wonderful job of putting the past to rest and forging a healthy personality. How do I know that? Because you identify with 3 of the 4 roles. when we have elements of each of them, we are no longer locked into a role – so we are not controlled by the past.

      well done.

  9. Is this why hitting your funny bone is so excruciatingly painful? It would be interesting to study the comedians to see if this fits their profile. I always learn something here, Louise.

    • Joan, I don’t have any research to prove this, but I think you’re right. when reading comic biographies or listening to them talk about their childhood, I’ve yet to hear of one person who came from healthy, happy homes.

      glad you learn something – that’s my goal.

  10. When we think about this role, we all know people who show these typical behaviors. it is sad, I think.

  11. So touching, Louise. I can think of numerous friends of mine who hid their pain in entertaining and bring joy to others.

  12. Wonderful post, Louise. You are full of so much wonderful knowledge. Thank you.

  13. None of these roles are fun, right? Thanks for sharing this info. Really helpful and important to lots of people. Melis

    • you are so right. The Mascot looks like fun because of the clowning around but it is a lonely place to be.

  14. These posts are fascinating, not only for helping us to understand ourselves, but even more, for developing characters. I am a bit unclear on how children take on these four roles in smaller families – maybe I missed it, but when there are fewer than four children with an emotionally-absent parent, do they take on multiple roles? What about only children? I’d love to see a future post dealing with these! (As you might guess, I have an only-child heroine who is dealing with this sort of baggage. 🙂 )

    Thanks, as always, for your insight!

    • I will be dealing with these very issues in the next couple of weeks, Jennette. It’s quite interesting how these roles/behaviors evolve. in different families. Size of the family, income, family expectations all can play a role.

  15. I really like these posts Louise. They are helpful and informative in not only a personal way, but for writing too. Thanks!! 🙂

    • Glad you’re enjoying, Coleen. and thanks for all the RTs. Much appreciated.


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