Dysfunction in the Family: Types of Dysfunctional Families

In the course of continuing this series, I am overwhelmed by the wealth of available online information.  Family dysfunction is rooted on a large framework, it can't be confined to psychology or psychiatry only. For this series, I'll stick with the general and family context.  Moreover, I edited my post on the definition and characteristics of dysfunctional families to give it more depth. But I will resist to do the same for the rest of the series, and I will limit the resources to the already sizable number cited at the footer so as to avoid a long and tiresome, if not incoherent, discussion.

Moving on to the topic at hand, presented with some key points are the four types of systems that make a family dysfunctional:

Controlling, Religious Fundamentalist or Rigidly Dogmatic Family System
  • Parents fail to allow their children to assume responsibilities appropriate for their age.
  • Parents continue to be dominating and making decisions for their children.


  • Parents fear of becoming unnecessary to their children.
  • Children often feel resentful, rebellious, inadequate or powerless.
  • Children have difficulty in making decisions independently.
  • When children act independently, adults feel guilty and cheated.
The Emotionally or Psychologically Disturbed Family System
  • Parents hurt their children more by omission rather by commission.
  • Chronic mental illness and physical disability frequently contribute to parental inadequacy.
  • Children tend to take adult responsibilities at a young age.
  • Children are often asked to take care of their parents.
  • Children learn to ignore their own needs and feelings.
  • Children, when unable to play an adult role, they often feel inadequate and guilty.
 The Alcoholic or Chemically Dependent Family System
  • Families tend to be chaotic and unpredictable.
  • Rules, expectations, boundaries may vary from one day to another.
  • Children feel responsible for their parents misbehavior.
  • Children often have issues with regards to trust, emotional expression and intimate relationships.
  • Children of alcoholic or chemically dependent parents have higher probability of becoming alcoholics or chemically dependent themselves than children of those who are not.
The Abusive Family System
  • Abuse can be verbal, physical or sexual.
  • Verbal criticism, whether direct or down played, can have lasting effects.
  • Striking a child is physical abuse when it is frequent, random, unpredictable and minimal effort is made to control the impulse.
  • Physically abused children often feel anger and find tremendous difficulty in developing trust and safety.
  • Sexually abused children tend to be self-loathing, self-punishing, and have difficulties with relationship and sexuality.

Other unhealthy parenting signs and styles depicting dysfunction in the family were also listed in Wikipedia.

If you're a parent, I think I know how you're feeling right now. We really do have a big responsibility  in the formation of a child's life. AND we were also a child once, and a son or a daughter forever... I did mention before that I come from a dysfunctional family. The first type to be exact. I'm still quite struggling with it now and hoping to come into terms with my parents, siblings and myself. Hoping and praying also NOT to carry it on as a parent myself.


Previously in this series: Definition and Characteristics
Next in line: 8 Unspoken Rules

Photo credit: http://subdivided_we_stand.typepad.com/subdivided_we_stand/2007/09/wink-wink-nudge.html

Resources for this series, and suggestions for further reading:
[1] Marlon Ramirez and Ianessa Ang-Ramirez, M.D. "Moving Thomasian Families for Life and Love: Understanding Dysfunction in the Family." University of Santo Tomas. 22 October 2002.
[2] Chloe Sekouri. "What is a Dysfunctional Family?: Harmful Patterns in the Family System." 25 Jan 2010. 26 Aug 2010.  http://improving-relationships.suite101.com/article.cfm/what_is_a_dysfunctional_family
[3] "Dysfunctional Family." Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence. 1998. 25 Aug 2010. 
http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/dysfunctional-family
[4] "Dysfunctional Families: Recognizing and Overcoming their Effects" 1997. Counselling Services. Kansas State University. http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/relationships/dysfunc.html
[5] George Boyd. "When You Grow Up in a Dysfunctional Family." 1992.  Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies. 25 Aug 2010.   http://www.mudrashram.com/dysfunctionalfamily2.html
[6] "Dysfunctional Family." Wikipedia. 25 Aug 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysfunctional_family
[7] Suzanne Gold. Surviving a Dysfunctional Family. 1997. http://www.suzannegold.com/
[8] Tina Tessina, Ph.D. "Dysfunctional Families (excerpt)." It Ends With You; Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. 2003. 2 Sept 2010. http://www.enotalone.com/article/4407.html

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