- Which of the 5 Types of Dysfunctional Families Do You Have?
- 1. The Substance Abuse Family
- 2. The Conflict-Driven Family
- 3. The Violent Family
- 4. The Authoritarian Family
- 5. The Emotionally Detached Family
- Overcoming the Dysfunctional Family Curse
- Dysfunctional Family: Reasons, Signs & Characteristics
- 1. Finances
- 2. Family History of Dysfunction
- 3. Violence
- Signs You Were Raised in a Dysfunctional Family
- 1. You are a people-pleaser
- 3. You are constantly guilty
- 7. You have high levels of anxiety
- 9. You are frustrated
- 1. Lack of communication
- 3. Prone to Addiction
- 4. Mental Issues
- 5. Controlling Behaviour
- 7. Criticism
- 8. Lack of Independence and Privacy
- 9. No Emotional Support
- Tips to Overcome the Negative Effects of a Dysfunctional Family
- 2. Seek help
- 5. Build bridges with your family
- Dysfunctional Family Relationships | Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- Types Of Dysfunctional Families
- Resulting Problems
- Making Changes
- Special Considerations
- Final Note
- References And Additional Resources
- Dysfunctional Family: What It Is And What It’s To Grow Up In One
- What Is a Dysfunctional Family?
- Dysfunctional Family Roles
- What Is It to Grow Up in a Healthy Family?
Which of the 5 Types of Dysfunctional Families Do You Have?
Are you filled with dread at the thought of going home? Isyour family constantly at war with each other? Do you feel neglected or worryabout a possible violent outburst? You may think you’re the only one whosefamily life is filled with tension, strife, and emotional chaos. You’d bewrong. Far too many people are living in families where communication,emotional support, and love are in short supply.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can leave youemotionally scarred and set you up for a lifetime of issues. Not alldysfunctional families are the same though, and each type can create specificproblems that carry on into adulthood.
1. The Substance Abuse Family
Over 8 million children under the age of 18 live with a parent who has a substance use disorder, according to research in Social Work in Public Health. When one or more parents abuse drugs or alcohol, it can lead to chaotic family life.
Children of alcoholics or drug addicts may not have their basic needs met. The addicted parent may forget to pick up the kids from school, neglect to fix lunch or dinner, and skip important health checks.
Unreliable and inconsistent parenting causes children to feel insecure and leads to issues with trust and pent-up anger that may linger for decades.
Living in constant fear, being blamed for problems the parent creates and feeling ashamed impact the ability to form healthy relationships later on in life.
Children of alcoholics are prone to develop overactivity in the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, and can contribute to mental health conditions, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
And research in Drug and Alcohol Dependenceshows they are at heightened risk of developing substance use disorders.
2. The Conflict-Driven Family
Is your family life filled with heated arguments, hurtful disputes, and long-running feuds? When family members are constantly picking fights or pressing each other’s buttons to create conflict, it creates a highly stressful environment.
When one family member feels threatened, they may retaliate with even more hateful actions. It doesn’t really matter what the conflicts are about—money, personal style, where to go to dinner, or what to watch on TV—it’s the inability to communicate and resolve issues peacefully that causes lasting damage.
Children in conflict-oriented families often develop stress disorders and have trouble with attachment.
3. The Violent Family
Each year, approximately 4.5 to 15 million children are exposed to some form of physical violence in the home. Growing up in a volatile or violent family is a horrific experience that no one deserves. Family violence is not only physical.
It can also include verbal, sexual, or psychological abuse or any other behavior that makes you feel unsafe.
For children, simply witnessing domestic abuse can have the same devastating effects as experiencing abuse oneself, according to 2018 research in JAMA Network Open.
Childhood trauma causes physical changes in the developing brain that are associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. For example, brain imaging research shows that children who grow up in an abusive environment tend to have:
- Decreased volume in the prefrontal cortex, anarea involved in judgment, impulse control, planning, and follow-through
- A smaller hippocampus, an area of the braininvolved in learning and memory
- Reduced volume in the cerebellum, an areainvolved in coordinating physical movement and thoughts
- Excessive activity in the amygdala, the brain’sfear centers
4. The Authoritarian Family
Authoritarian parents act dictators, making greatdemands but giving little positive feedback. Mistakes are often met with severepunishment, which can include yelling, spanking, or other forms of corporalpunishment.
In these households, the authoritarian sets the rules and it’s “myway or the highway.” Children learn to follow rules but don’t gain valuable experiencein making their own decisions or learning from their own mistakes.
When they grow up, these youngsters tend to have poor self-esteem, may be overly aggressive or excessively shy in social situations, may be prone to anxiety or depression, and may be vulnerable to substance abuse due to an inability to control their own behavior.
5. The Emotionally Detached Family
In some families, signs of affection and warmth are missing. Emotional unavailability and a lack of hugs, handholding, and other physical signs of love teach children to repress their emotions. This causes little ones to bottle up their feelings and have a hard time opening up to others, which can lead to a series of failed relationships.
In some cases, it creates problems with self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. Without loving parents, children are more ly to have a fear of abandonment, school problems, and psychological issues, such as a lack of identity or personality disorders.
Overcoming the Dysfunctional Family Curse
Whichever form of family dysfunction affects your home life,understand that you can overcome these issues. You don’t need to let them ruinyour life. Here are some powerful steps that can help you heal from adysfunctional upbringing.
- Adopt brain healthy habits. Even if your brain bears the emotional scars of childhood abuse, you can improve your brain function, which will enhance every area of your life.
- Find a support network. If your familyunit isn’t there for you, find friends, a church group, a support group, or atherapist who can be a good listener and be there for you when you need help.
- Work on relationship skills. Even though you didn’t grow up with healthy relationships, you can learn to develop strong bonds with others.
- Stop being a victim. When you are avictim, you are powerless to change anything. Only when you take responsibilityfor your own behaviors can you gain the power to make changes.
If you’re struggling with issues that stem from growing up in a dysfunctional family or you’re still caught up in an unhealthy family dynamic, Amen Clinics can help. At Amen Clinics, we can help you—and everyone in the family unit—achieve better brain health and a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.
We use brain SPECT imaging to help diagnose mental health conditions and to identify areas of the brain that may benefit from optimization. We believe in using the least toxic, most effective solutions, including psychotherapy, natural supplements, nutritional coaching, medications (when necessary) and more.
To find out more about how we can help, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.
Dysfunctional Family: Reasons, Signs & Characteristics
Last Updated on February 17, 2021
Every person who grows up in a family knows that each one has its own dynamics. The formative years of a child’s life, and the environment in which he grows up, has a direct impact on how he functions as an individual.
A family is dysfunctional when conflict, neglect, and misbehaviour are constant and everlasting. Modern psychology defines dysfunctional families as those with anxious systems within them.
There is a tremendous amount of emotional disturbance within the family members, and it sometimes means that it is coupled with child neglect and abuse.
Children from dysfunctional families assume that this situation is normal, as they are exposed to that environment regularly, and do not know the different aspects of dealing with a dysfunctional family.
A functional family, on the other hand, encourages all family members to attain optimal growth, and provides a safe space for emotional well-being.
In a dysfunctional family, there is often apathy, child abuse, and neglect involved to some degree. Children who come from dysfunctional families often have low self-confidence or low self-esteem, and grow up thinking that such behaviour is normal. Dysfunctional families have adverse effects on child development.
In a functional family, there is mutual respect between family members, and everyone has each other’s back. In dysfunctional families, there is tension and mistrust among the parents and children. Also, the authority of the parents in the family is often misguided and without accountability.
Even among adults, there is a certain level of mistrust and resentment. The family members do not create a safe surrounding for a child to grow. There is underlying fear and hurt constantly while growing up.
Also, dysfunctional families do not value apologies, and do not allow for emotions to be expressed reasonably.
No family is perfect, and you do not get to choose the family you are born into or are raised in. There are many reasons, both external and internal, that lead to dysfunctional families. Here are some traits of a dysfunctional family:
If a family is undergoing or has been in exceptionally poor financial situations, then it puts extra pressure on the mental health of the adults.
This pressure could easily turn into toxic stress, which leads to more dysfunctional behaviour within the family members.
As soon as the family is facing money issues, the parents get anxious, and it leads to cracks in the family structure, thereby leading to fights and disharmony.
2. Family History of Dysfunction
If, for many generations, there has been a history of family dysfunction, and at least one parent’s dynamics with their own parents is also dysfunctional, then the cycle remains unbroken. All the family members exhibit characteristics of someone raised in a dysfunctional family.
A history of violence – either physical, emotional, or sexual – leads to fear, destructive behaviour, and violence between the parents and towards the children.
If a family has strong religious beliefs, with no room for conversation, debate, or explanations, it can lead to the parents trying to enforce the same set of beliefs on their children. Parents might become strict without reason or purely on the basis of their fundamental opinion, and this can lead to dysfunctionality.
A reason for a dysfunctional family could be parents getting pushy, aggressively authoritative, and tyrannical in their behaviour; this leads to over possessiveness and dis amongst members.
Signs You Were Raised in a Dysfunctional Family
Often, it may become difficult to deduce if you come from a dysfunctional family, but here are some signs you can check for the same:
1. You are a people-pleaser
If you find yourself constantly trying to say yes to people and do anything in your power to please them, then it could be a sign that you are from a dysfunctional family. If you are nice for the sake of being nice, and sacrifice personal needs to make others happy, it may be a sign. This is because as a child, you might have been made to believe that you will be abandoned.
If you crave perfection in everything you do, it may be because you are afraid of failure, which may be a result of growing up in a dysfunctional family.
3. You are constantly guilty
As an adult, if you feel guilty for other people’s situations or behaviour, neither of which are under your control, then it may be a sign. You feel guilty when people feel upset, even if you are in no way responsible for it.
If you do not know how to communicate emotions in a healthy way with friends and family, and you tend to shut down and not address them, then chances are, you have been in a dysfunctional family.
When others make their own decisions, and you are not accountable for them, you still feel a sense of responsibility for what has transpired, especially when the situation is bad.
No matter what you do or achieve, you are your harshest critic, and you always criticise yourself first. You think that anything that goes wrong is inevitably your fault in some way.
7. You have high levels of anxiety
Even when it’s all smooth sailing, you are always worried that something will go wrong, leading to a high level of anxiety. Consequently, you are never able to enjoy yourself.
As a result of constant isolation or lack of emotional support as a child, you feel unfulfilled and empty. You constantly seek affection, and you are afraid to be alone.
9. You are frustrated
No matter how good your life is, you can always pinpoint something that is wrong, and you are dissatisfied. You feel your efforts go unappreciated all the time.
A feeling of hopelessness and anguish exists in your everyday life, despite no dire circumstances. You have negative thoughts, and look at life from a pessimistic perspective.
Dysfunctional families have several characteristics in common, which showcase the unfortunate dynamics between family members, and their attitude towards each other.
This is what it looks to be in a dysfunctional family:
1. Lack of communication
Members of a dysfunctional family do not know how to openly communicate with one another, and often have serious communication problems. They sweep issues under the carpet, and never discuss them.
They do not create a healthy environment for discussions, and often shout or have screaming fights.
Family members do not listen to each other, and usually resort to other ways of communication.
In a family which is dysfunctional, there is no empathy, or very little of it. Children will end up feeling bad about themselves.
There is no unconditional love, and issues are always subjected to behaviour corrections, even when it’s not necessary or the child has made only a small mistake.
There is no room for error, which creates a claustrophobic environment, which leads to a constant fear of failure in children.
3. Prone to Addiction
Children who have witnessed their parents being addicted to drugs, smoking or alcohol, often as adults end up using such substances to cope with life.
4. Mental Issues
Children who grow up watching adults around them suffering from mental illnesses and personality disorders often do not know how to cope or behave adults. They also have a tendency to suffer from the same illnesses, due to a genetic predisposition.
5. Controlling Behaviour
Sometimes, when parents exert excessive control in their children’s lives, stifling their ability to grow, they also end up not encouraging good behaviour. This kind of control can lead to self-doubt in children when it comes to their abilities, and also creates trust issues.
Parents often end up putting pressure on their kids to perform, and when that pressure becomes excessive, it leads to dysfunctional behaviour in them. Fear of failure is triggered, and the children inevitably grow up to be perfectionists.
Children growing up in a dysfunctional family are constantly criticised for their abilities – or lack of them – and are berated for all their actions. Parents are often condescending, patronising, and mean, instilling a sense of helplessness and lack of belief in the child, leading to low self-esteem.
8. Lack of Independence and Privacy
Parents may constantly invade a child’s privacy, and smother them to ensure that they have zero independence when it comes to decisions in a dysfunctional family. They need to check at all times what the kids are doing, and do not have honest communication or rules about it.
9. No Emotional Support
There is no room for emotions or support for members of a dysfunctional family. There is no safe space provided for children to express their emotions clearly and in a positive manner. Kids often grow up lonely or isolated from their parents in this situation.
Parents in a dysfunctional family may resort to abuse of the child. There may be signs of verbal, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in children who come from dysfunctional families. Children observe this as normal, and showcase the same behaviour as adults later.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can largely have negative effects on the children in the family. Mistrust, anxiety, despise, and other negative emotions lead to the making of a very insecure adult.
Certain common behaviour patterns can be observed in people who come from a dysfunctional family, such as:
- They have a bad image of themselves, and they suffer from low self-confidence and self-esteem.
- They find it difficult to form healthy adult relationships, and are shy or have a personality disorder.
- They get angry frequently and easily, and prefer to be in isolation.
- Their academic performance is usually poor, as they struggle to concentrate and focus.
- They exhibit self-harm or self-destructive behaviour.
- They are prone to addiction to alcohol, drugs, or smoking.
- They can suffer from mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, paranoia, etc.
- They may lack discipline due to lack of a role model to look up to while growing up, and can become irresponsible or destructive.
- They can also lose their child qualities of innocence, as they have to take major responsibilities at an early age.
Tips to Overcome the Negative Effects of a Dysfunctional Family
Once you have identified if you come from a dysfunctional family, the first step is to acknowledge and recognise behaviours and habits in yourself that have grown being in a dysfunctional family. As adults, you are surviving the effects of being brought up in such an environment. There are many ways to deal with it, such as:
As adults, you have a choice to overcome your circumstances, and work towards creating a healthy emotional situation. It is important to take responsibility for your actions, and learn how to meet the expectations that are set for you by yourself and your family.
2. Seek help
Once you recognise any behaviours or habits that are harmful, it is important to seek professional help, or help in some form, to fix them. Dealing with low self-confidence can be a difficult thing, and it always helps to have the support of family and friends.
Sometimes, conflicting situations can make way for creativity and expression. If you want to overcome the negative effects of a dysfunctional family, express yourself in a healthy way to your family and close ones. Share your thoughts, and discuss how you can rebuild relationships.
It is not easy to grow up in a place where trust is hard to come by among the adults you have seen around you. As a child, if you have seen your parents be mistrustful, that is a tendency that you will carry into your adulthood. With time and patience, learn to build trust among your closest ones.
5. Build bridges with your family
Families that are dysfunctional are emotionally unstable, and as adults, you have the choice to build (or rebuild) a relationship that is broken. Start with baby steps, and try to forgive and support your family wherever you can.
No matter the kind of upbringing you have had, there is always an opportunity as an adult to reflect upon and improve yourself, and to have meaningful relationships with people.
Also Read: Impacts of Parents Fighting on Child
Dysfunctional Family Relationships | Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Many people hope that once they leave home, they will leave their family and childhood problems behind. However, many find that they experience similar problems, as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns, long after they have left the family environment.
Ideally, children grow up in family environments which help them feel worthwhile and valuable. They learn that their feelings and needs are important and can be expressed. Children growing up in such supportive environments are ly to form healthy, open relationships in adulthood.
However, families may fail to provide for many of their children’s emotional and physical needs. In addition, the families’ communication patterns may severely limit the child’s expressions of feelings and needs.
Children growing up in such families are ly to develop low self esteem and feel that their needs are not important or perhaps should not be taken seriously by others. As a result, they may form unsatisfying relationships as adults.
Types Of Dysfunctional Families
The following are some examples of patterns that frequently occur in dysfunctional families.
- One or both parents have addictions or compulsions (e.g., drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling, overworking, and/or overeating) that have strong influences on family members.
- One or both parents use the threat or application of physical violence as the primary means of control. Children may have to witness violence, may be forced to participate in punishing siblings, or may live in fear of explosive outbursts.
- One or both parents exploit the children and treat them as possessions whose primary purpose is to respond to the physical and/or emotional needs of adults (e.g., protecting a parent or cheering up one who is depressed).
- One or both parents are unable to provide, or threaten to withdraw, financial or basic physical care for their children. Similarly, one or both parents fail to provide their children with adequate emotional support.
- One or both parents exert a strong authoritarian control over the children. Often these families rigidly adhere to a particular belief (religious, political, financial, personal). Compliance with role expectations and with rules is expected without any flexibility.
There is a great deal of variability in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families, and in the kinds and the severity of their dysfunction. However, when patterns the above are the norm rather than the exception, they systematically foster abuse and/or neglect. Children may:
- Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
- Experience “reality shifting” in which what is said contradicts what is actually happening (e.g., a parent may deny something happened that the child actually observed, for example, when a parent describes a disastrous holiday dinner as a “good time”).
- Be ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
- Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
- Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
- Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or conversely, receive no guidelines or structure.
- Experience rejection or preferential treatment.
- Be restricted from full and direct communication with other family members.
- Be allowed or encouraged to use drugs or alcohol.
- Be locked the house.
- Be slapped, hit, scratched, punched, or kicked.
Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children’s trust in the world, in others, and in themselves.
Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of selfworth.
Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.
In common with other people, abused and neglected family members often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.” The more they have to accommodate to make the situation seem normal (e.g.
, “No, I wasn’t beaten, I was just spanked. My father isn’t violent, it’s just his way”), the greater is their lihood of misinterpreting themselves and developing negative self concepts (e.g.
, “I had it coming; I’m a rotten kid”).
Sometimes we continue in our roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us “permission”; to change. But that permission can come only from you.
most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you “change back.
” That’s why it’s so important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. Some specific things you can do include:
- Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood.
- Make a list of your behaviors, beliefs, etc. that you would to change.
- Next to each item on the list, write down the behavior, belief, etc. that you would to do/have instead.
- Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behavior or belief. Choose the easiest item first.
- Once you are able to do the alternate behavior more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too.
In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a group of people with similar experiences and/or with a professional counselor.
As you make changes, keep in mind the following:
- Stop trying to be perfect. In addition, don’t try to make your family perfect.
- Realize that you are not in control of other people’s lives. You do not have the power to make others change.
- Don’t try to win the old struggles – you can’t win.
- Set clear limits – e.g., if you do not plan on visiting your parents for a holiday, say “no,” not “be.”
- Identify what you would to have happen. Recognize that when you stop behaving the way you used to, even for a short time, there may be adverse reactions from your family or friends. Anticipate what the reactions will be (e.g., tears, yelling, other intimidating responses) and decide how you will respond.
Don’t become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns of behavior. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they will begin to become part of your day to day living.
References And Additional Resources
Some excellent books on Dysfunctional Families are:
- Toxic Parents. S. Forward. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.
- Cutting Loose. H. Halpern. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.
- How to Deal with Your Parents When They Still Treat You a Child. L. Osterkamp. New York: Berkley Books, 1992.
From the Counseling Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Dysfunctional Family: What It Is And What It’s To Grow Up In One
By: Kelly Spears
Updated December 22, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Patricia Corlew , LMFT, LPC,
It seems almost everyone claims to be from a dysfunctional family. Sometimes, we blame our current problems on the family we grew up into the extent that we don't take responsibility for our actions.
Other times, our past experiences with dysfunctional families can affect our behavior today.
How do you know whether family dysfunction is a serious problem for you? You can start exploring this issue by learning more about dysfunction in families and the effects of growing up in the turmoil of a family that doesn't work.
Understanding The Dynamics Of A Dysfunctional Family Can Help You Move On
Work On Your Family Issues With A Licensed Therapist TodayThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
What Is a Dysfunctional Family?
A good way to begin your journey of self-discovery is to learn the definition. How is a dysfunctional family defined? If you were or are a part of a dysfunctional family, define it in your terms first. Then, look to other definitions.
The McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine defines the term 'dysfunctional family' as «a family with multiple 'internal' conflicts, e.g. sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, or 'external' conflicts, e.g.
alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment-influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit.»
The main thing to remember about this definition is that there are multiple negative influences, and they affect basic needs. This is what separates families with minor dysfunction from those where family dysfunction is a serious problem. Below we'll discuss the most common influences that lead to family dysfunction.
Family History of Dysfunction
People tend to learn their parenting styles from their parents or other caregivers. If their parents abused them, they may abuse their children. Or, they may go overboard the other direction, being unnecessarily lenient. They may manipulate each other and their children as their parents did. They may not truly understand how to teach their children in healthy ways.
The good news for people who grew up in a dysfunctional family is that they can learn better ways of parenting.
They can deal with the issues they still carry as adults and learn how to love, appreciate, respect, and deal with each other in a less emotional, erratic way.
All they need is the willingness to do the work it takes to overcome those issues and find someone to teach them better ways to parent.
Physical illness alone does not cause family dysfunction. However, it can make life much harder for everyone concerned. Parents sometimes rely on their children to do things they would ordinarily do for themselves, causing them intense anxiety and sometimes depression. If one child is ill, the other children may feel neglected as you focus all your energy on helping that one child.
You may not have had any control over the illness that puts such strain on your family, but you can control your actions, learn to use the resources available to you, and meet your children's needs. Medical problems present a tremendous challenge, but with the right help, you can keep your family functioning well.
Biology plays a major role in many mental illnesses, but the behavior problems that are usually a part of psychological problems make family life much more challenging.
People with untreated mental illness can cause discord in a family that would otherwise be highly functional. With treatment, people with mental illness can be great parents.
They can contribute positively to their families and children.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. While low levels of stress can have a positive impact on people and push them to achieve their goals, excessive stress can jeopardize a family's security and wellbeing.
High levels of stress can lead to hostility within a family. Learning to deal with life's stressors in a healthy manner is essential to the happiness and wellbeing of the individual, as well as the family.
When you model healthy coping strategies to your children, they learn how to function well even in dire circumstances.
Drug, alcohol, gambling, and other addictions can lead to codependency, with caretakers spending excessive amounts of time, energy, and other resources on the addicted individual. When an addiction is severe, it can drain a family's financial and emotional resources.
Individuals with even the slightest mental health issues tend to become sicker when there is addiction present in the family-but even mentally healthy people have difficulty dealing with family addictions. While addiction can cause problems within a family, addictive behaviors are also used in an attempt to cope with dysfunctional family dynamics.
People in a family that doesn't meet their needs may turn to alcohol, drugs, food, or gambling for temporary relief.
Perfectionist parents often put incredible pressure on their partners and children, not just to do their best, but to accomplish the impossible. Perfectionism is unrealistic and can be toxic to family life.
Perfectionists' loved ones often feel they're walking on eggshells. Children with perfectionist parents may lose their innate lighthearted spirit and find it difficult to learn.
These children may lack self-esteem and feel incompetent, worthless, or generally inadequate.
Poor communication may be the single most telling characteristic of a dysfunctional family. Virtually any problem can be managed with open, honest, healthy communication. One common theme in dysfunctional families is the inability or unwillingness to listen to one another.
In many cases, an individual will avoid direct communication with the person who has caused a problem, instead confiding in other family members in an effort to evade confrontation. Indirect communication can cause bitterness and passive-aggressive behavior.
It can also result in a lack of trust within a family unit.
Lack of Empathy
When a parent lacks empathy, his or her children may feel that the parent's love is conditional. When a parent shows empathy, however, he or she models this trait to the child, which can help children become compassionate, empathetic adults.
The unconditional love, empathy, and open communication present in healthy families helps parents work with their children in a constructive manner, even when the child makes a mistake or poor decision.
In healthy families, parents are intent on helping their children make good decisions and learn from their mistakes rather than belittling them or instilling shame.
Excessive Attempts to Control
Dysfunctional families are often characterized by a parent's excessive need to control their children and/or the other parent. Taking a more relaxed, accepting approach encourages kids to do their best in every situation, rather than living to appease the controlling parent.
Lack of Privacy and Independence
Parents in dysfunctional families often lack trust in their children and tend to invade their privacy. While there are times when parents need to know what's going on with their children so they can respond appropriately, parents in a functional family utilize honest communication rather than room raids and harsh interrogations.
Children in dysfunctional families often aren't given the opportunity to be themselves. They may be discouraged from making their own decisions, developing preferences that are different from their parents', or having friends their parents disapprove of.
They're often expected to imitate their parents rather than develop unique personalities.
Criticism runs rampant in a dysfunctional family. Sometimes, the criticism is blatant, with parents chastising everything the child says or does. Other times, parents take a more subtle approach by using sarcasm, insults, or teasing in a sneaky attempt to say something negative without making themselves seem cruel.
Dysfunctional Family Roles
There are five common roles in a dysfunctional family:
- Enabler or Caretaker — This individual attempts to keep the family going despite the presence of addiction and/or other dysfunctions in the family. The enabler or caretaker protects troubled family members from others and the consequences of their behavior.
- Scapegoat or Troublemaker — This family member tends to be a rule breaker, both in society and within the family unit. The scapegoat or troublemaker may become sick or weak, or angry and rebellious. This individual's wellbeing is often sacrificed to maintain the family structure.
- Lost Child or Quiet One — This person is seemingly calm and collected, and makes a conscious effort to avoid causing trouble. The lost child spends the majority of his or her time alone, avoiding the family and its dysfunctional ways. This individual tends to struggle with social skills more so than other members of the family, ly because they rarely practice interacting with others.
- Mascot — This individual alleviates tension within the family by utilizing humor or mischief in everyday life. The mascot is the 'fun' one, always on a mission to lighten the mood. Family members in this role tend to suffer when things slow down.
- The Hero — This person has an intense desire to succeed in life, which can lead to suffering from stress-related illnesses. The hero is typically a pro at covering up dysfunction within the family and making their parents look «normal.»
Understanding The Dynamics Of A Dysfunctional Family Can Help You Move On
Work On Your Family Issues With A Licensed Therapist Today
Immediate Effects of Living in a Dysfunctional Family
When a child is living in a dysfunctional family, he or she may experience immediate effects, including:
- Social isolation or loneliness
- Development of behavioral disorders
- Being extremely self-critical
- Low self-esteem
- Development of mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression
- Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
When you live in a dysfunctional family as a child, your brain becomes wired to respond to stressors in unhealthy ways, but you have the ability to make permanent changes as an adult.
What Is It to Grow Up in a Healthy Family?
If you focused on the dysfunctional family quotes you see on the Internet, in the media, from the entertainment industry, and even in great literature, you might get the impression that there is no such thing as a healthy, functional family life. However, some families function very well, providing every member with what they need to live a peaceful and productive life.
So, what does a healthy family look ? Here are some of the characteristics that define it:
- People communicate freely and openly, but compassionately as well.
- Everyone's basic physical and emotional needs are met.
- Family members listen to one another and appreciate differing opinions.
- Conflicts are resolved directly, and family members don't hold grudges.
- Parents show unconditional love for each child, even when they don't approve of specific behaviors.
- Family members work together to reach mutual goals.
- Each family member is encouraged to develop preferences, interests, and a unique personality.
What Can You Do about a Dysfunctional Family You Were in As a Child?
To overcome a childhood marred by being in a dysfunctional family, you must start by healing those old, internal wounds. Talking with a therapist allows you to express your feelings about what happened in a safe environment that's entirely focused on helping you become mentally healthier.
You can learn and practice the skills no one taught you when you were a child. These might include communications skills, independence, empathetic listening, and skills that make it possible for you to handle problems directly.
You can learn to be more comfortable in your skin, with your mind, body, and emotions, and with your own choices. You can grow more self-confident, self-accepting, and more self-assured.
You can learn to feel more trust and safety in your home environment.
You might ask, 'Yes, but how can I learn all those things at my age?' The way you learn is to read self-help books, write in a journal, and most helpful of all; you can talk to someone who has been trained to teach people how to overcome the destructive influence of a dysfunctional family. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
«Alisha has let me view situations in another perspective. the stressful times I've gone (still going) through with my family and my work. I'm really grateful for her time to listen to what's on my mind and really making me comfortable to share so much with her. Thank you, Alisha!»
«It's refreshing being able to talk to someone who can help me break down situations that bring me anxiety and giving me tools to develop an inner conversation that will eventually help me de-escalate situations on my own. Peter is really easy to talk to, and has a way to simplify my words into something less intimidating. Thank you, Peter!»
Your past doesn't have to predict your future. You've gone through pain, but with the right tools, you can truly live the life you deserve. Take the first step today.