What Are The Dynamics Of A Dysfunctional Family?

Many of us are deeply rooted in our families. They are your primary circle and carers, shaping you into the person you become. Are you dreading the thought of returning home? Do members of your family frequently engage in conflict? Do you worry about a potentially violent reaction or feel neglected? You might believe that your family is the only one whose relationships are tense, dubious, and emotionally chaotic. You’d be mistaken. There are far too many people who reside in households with inadequate levels of love, support, and communication.

How does a dysfunctional family look? Oftentimes, it is a matter of what’s right or wrong when it comes to parenting and maintaining the health of the overall household. The Simpsons, America’s longest-running television show, is focused on the never-ending dysfunctional ties between all five family members, including baby Maggie.

The context of a dysfunctional family

A dysfunctional family is one in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse—and sometimes all of the above—occur on a continuous and regular basis on the part of individual parents, leading other members to adopt such actions. In a dysfunctional family, roles are not clearly defined, as the children oftentimes take on the role of an adult early on because they do not have a coregulated relationship and often face abandonment from their family.

There is no such thing as a perfectly functional family, and each household has its own set of problems and challenges. The way those family problems are handled can have an impact on family members. Some families fall into patterns that can be destructive.

Dysfunctional family types

  1. The Substance abuse Family
  2. The Conflict-Driven Family
  3. The Violent Family
  4. The Authoritarian Family
  5. The Emotionally Detached Family

Dysfunctional family signs and characteristics

There are multiple signs and characteristics to identify what it feels like to be in a dysfunctional family. Let’s look at a few common ones that are relatively easier to locate and identify.

  • Conditional love: Family members who aren’t functioning well can be very sneaky with their love, showing it to you only when they need something from you. Withholding love prevents you from being yourself and instead makes you want to please the other person all the time. As a result, your personality changes and you become a people-pleaser.
  • Lack of empathy: There is no understanding from the caregiver’s end, as they are preoccupied with their world and themselves.
  • Perfectionism: Everyone involved feels a great deal of pressure when everything is expected to be perfect. Long-term emotional damage can result from believing you will never measure up to your family’s unrealistic expectations.
  • Poor Communication: Having a lack of clarity between the people involved in that relationship does nothing but create havoc and loads of misunderstandings, leading to heartbreaks.

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What are the effects of family dynamics?

You may already know the effects of dysfunctional family behavior if you recognize some of the signs as mentioned earlier. Low self-esteem or low self-confidence are two examples of how your family can interfere with your life. It may even include social anxiety and unexplained aches and pains. It is common for these characteristics to be passed down through generations. Your parents may have picked up on cues from their parents, who picked up on cues from their parents, who picked up on cues from their family. Many of us grow up believing that the behavior of our dysfunctional families is expected. But knowing that it is possible to break this cycle is the first step towards understanding that your own awareness and willingness to self-examine are the most powerful tools for breaking dysfunctional patterns.



How to deal with dysfunctional families?

Recognizing that you grew up in a dysfunctional family is a good initial step, but it is not enough to break the cycle. You can consult with a certified mental healthcare specialist or join a support group to help you deal with any unresolved trauma from your childhood.

Therapy can also teach you how to employ healthy coping mechanisms to regulate unpleasant feelings rather than developing addictions or destructive habits. A mental health professional can also help you set boundaries, which you will need if you continue to communicate with your dysfunctional family members on a regular basis. You may need to limit communication with your relatives while you concentrate on your healing.

If you want to be a parent, study child development and how to address the requirements of children at each stage. You can take a class, conduct your own research, or engage with a therapist to learn healthy parenting techniques. This is how you will be able to break the cycle of dysfunction and do your best to love yourself and your children in the future. Lastly, asking a close family member or friend to hold you accountable for making changes can significantly influence your life and the lives of people around you.


Coming from a dysfunctional family does not deter you from having a dysfunctional life.

– Bo Bennett

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