In Family

Facts About The Dysfunctional Family

Basically, a dysfunctional family is one which conflicts, misbehavior, and sometimes abuse happens on a regular basis. Dysfunctional families can be a result of alcoholism and drug abuse, untreated mental disorders, or even parents continuing a previous pattern of dysfunctional behavior.

There are some features and characteristics that are common to dysfunctional families.

* A lack of understanding and sensitivity toward one of more family members. While on the other hand paying special attention to the concerns of other family members.

* Family members deny that their is a problem with family dysfunction, and believe their behaviors are perfectly normal.

* Clear boundaries, or no boundaries are set. Inappropriate behavior is tolerated. This could include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

* There is a purposeful violation of a person’s set boundaries. Also there is a continuous disrespect of family member’s desires.

* Constant unfair treatment of a family member due to things like birth order, age, gender, and family role.

Though not universal, these behaviors are typical of dysfunctional families.

* A high level of jealousy exists, along with an abundance of controlling behaviors.

* There is a lack of time spent together among family members. There are little or no family outings.

* Parents who stay together for the wrong reasons, usually makings a bad situation worst.

* All types of abnormal sexual behavior, including adultery, incest, and promiscuity.

Badly executed parenting styles can be a major cause of perpetuating dysfunctional family roles. One such behavior is using kids as pawns. It could manifest itself in one parent manipulating a child in order to get a negative response from the other parent. This often happens in separated families, but can also occur in intact families. This type of behavior is known as triangulation.

Here is an accounting of other major forms dysfunctional parenting styles.

Abusing: Parents who either use physical violence, emotional or sexual abuse against their children.

Perfectionist: Parents become ridiculously fixated on order, power, and keeping up perfect appearances. They don’t want to see their child fail at anything.

Deprivations: Parents seek to control their children by with holding love or any kind of support for their children. There can also be little sympathy, praise, or encouragement from the parent toward their children.

Abandonment: A parent that separates from their children physically, and wishes to no longer have any contact with them.


The distorted attitudes of ineffective parents can have very traumatic effects on children. Out of the box and unnatural relationships within the family unit become the norm for the children.

Some of the impact family dysfunction may have on children is the development of various disorders and negative behaviors. Children involved with a dysfunctional family unit could have study problems in school. They could drift into drug or alcohol abuse. At times, the blame for the family disruptions may be placed upon a child, even though it may clearly not be the truth.

To cope with family dysfunctions some children may become the class clown, or the life of the party when away from home and in the presence of their peers. Still others withdrawn into themselves and live a life in social isolation.

The impact of a bad home environment can spark a number of negative behaviors in children. Here are a few examples:

* The child develops constant feelings of loneliness.

* The child is hard on himself for several unjustified reasons.

* The child is reluctant to, and does not really know how to express their feelings.

* There is a struggle by the child to form positive relationships on any level.

* Because of a toxic home life relationships, the child could drift toward friends, or intimate relationships in which they are treated badly or abused.

* The child has never been taught to handle extreme emotions, especially in terms of anger and any type of frustration.

Adults From Dysfunctional Families

In many cases, adults from dysfunctional families have had emotional problems for a good portion of their lives. This is a result of being raised by parents that don’t know how to teach their children to operate in a healthy way when it comes to the outside world.

When adult children of dysfunctional families seek therapy it is often the first family member to recognize a need for change from his or her family legacy. It can be said that many people take how their parents treat them to know how to treat others. Yet many adults from dysfunctional situations outwardly appear to be successful at work and in their communities. But they suffer internally from self-rejection and self-criticism. They can have depression, anxiety, and addictive behavior issues.

Adults that show the following tendencies may be a candidate for therapy.

* The person is haunted by pain-filled childhood memories. They have conflict ridden memories about their parents or other family members.

* The person suffers from bouts of depression. They seem to be in a constant unstable mental frame of mind. They are dis-satisfied about their lot in life and don’t feel good about the future.

* The person finds themselves choosing friends or mates that mirror their dysfunctional family members.

* The person overreacts with too much anger, fear, or hurt feelings over minor situations.

* The person thinks negatively about himself, believing they are a bad person unworthy of being liked or loved.


Family therapists take many approaches when it comes to tackling the problems presented by dysfunctional families. They may use psychodynamic, cognitive, or behavioral treatment. They may council family members individually, together, or in sub groups.

Psychodynamic Therapy

This form of therapy seeks to resolve unconscious conflicts patients have developed from early childhood, and has led to difficulty in a patient’s day to day life. The therapist hopes to help the patient work through painful memories by using free association and transference techniques.

Cognitive Therapy

This based on the idea that a patient’s thoughts and feelings impact on their behavior. When the behavior is negative, the therapist hopes to identify unhelpful thinking, and change the thought process through coming up with alternative ways of thinking about, and viewing themselves.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a form that is based on the principle of thought known as behaviorism. It is based on the idea that all types of behaviors are acquired through conditioning.

Behaviorists believe a patient can be studied by observation, giving no consideration to their mental state of mind. They work on the theory that things like emotion and moods are too subjective. Strict behaviorists believe any person can be trained to do any task regardless of any personal factors. They believe the right conditioning will make it happen.

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