No family is perfect, and dysfunctional families cannot serve as good role models for children or contribute to their development of high self-esteem. According to research, childhood trauma can lead to substance or alcohol abuse issues in adults. This includes trauma caused by family dysfunction, natural catastrophes, sickness, and other unexpected events. An individual is more likely to develop an alcohol or drug addiction the more traumatic experiences they endure as a child.
What Is a Dysfunctional Family?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a dysfunctional family is one in which relationships or communication are strained. Members of the family are unable to become close or express themselves. In dysfunctional family systems, child neglect or abuse, conflicts, and misbehavior happen frequently and continually. Sometimes the parents in these families exhibit dysfunctional parenting behaviors and engage in abusive and toxic interpersonal relationships. 2
Examples of Dysfunctional Families
The following are some examples of dysfunctional families:
- Excessive Demand or Control: In a dysfunctional family system, one or both parents may have strong authoritarian control over the children. These families frequently have a strict adherence to a particular belief, such as religious, political, financial, or personal. Without any room for flexibility, compliance with the requirements of the role and the norms is demanded.
- Substance Misuse: A family where one or both parents depend on drugs, alcohol, gambling, excessive work, or overeating. These addictions have a significant impact on family members.
- Physical Abuse: One or both parents’ primary method of control is the threat or use of physical force. Children may have to watch violence, be made to punish siblings or experience the terror of violent outbursts.
The following are common characteristics of a dysfunctional family system:
- Lack of empathy
- Excessive criticism
Dysfunctional Family Roles
In a dysfunctional family, everyone plays a variety of roles. Not all roles are present in every messed-up family, but the following are the most common:
Enabler or CaretakerEven if it means disregarding the family problems, the caregiver attempts to keep everyone in the dysfunctional family happy. The caretaker tries to keep everyone in the dysfunctional family happy, even if it means ignoring the pressing problems.
They are also often referred to as martyrs or enablers. This role can be played by both adults and children, which eventually limits the opportunity to deal with the core problem. This keeps the family in an unhealthy state of balance, but it also inhibits the family from going forward and healing.
Scapegoat or TroublemakerIn dysfunctional families, the scapegoat is ignored and held responsible for issues that may or may not be caused by them. Scapegoated kids frequently experience isolation, rejection, and a lack of empathy. More severe issues can be overlooked or disregarded because their actions are the root of family problems. People in this role frequently struggle to establish true connections with others and may self-sabotage.
Lost Child or Quiet OneTo keep themselves safe and prevent family strife, the lost child makes every effort to blend into the background. In abusive homes, a lost child may feel neglected, disregarded, and afraid to bring attention to themselves. Since they aren’t causing any issues, parents may use them as an example of how well the family is doing.
The family mascot uses comedy and playfulness to deflect attention from important matters. They could feel tremendous pressure to intervene when things get tense and chaotic. When they successfully resolve the family problem, it puts even more pressure on them to keep the family’s attention off it. The mascot uses humor to diffuse tense situations. In adulthood, the mascot could find it difficult to relate to unpleasant feelings or conflicts and may choose to divert attention with humor.
Effects of Living in a Dysfunctional Family
Individuals are influenced by prolonged exposure to unfavorable environments. Growing up in a dysfunctional family system has the following psychological effects:
- Social isolation or loneliness
- Development of behavioral disorders
- Being extremely self-critical
- Low self-esteem
- Development of mental health issues
Types of Dysfunctional Families
The Substance Abuse Family
More than 8 million kids under 18 live with a parent who has a substance use disorder. The main causes of a dysfunctional family include drug or alcohol misuse by one or both parents. Children who experience unstable and inconsistent parenting from substance abuse parents feel insecure. This can result in trust issues and repressed resentment that may last for decades.3
The Conflict-Driven FamilyA highly stressful environment is created when family members continuously start conflicts or provoke one another. A family member may retaliate with even more hostile actions if they feel threatened. The failure to communicate and find peaceful solutions to conflicts, regardless of what they are about, has a lasting negative effect. Dysfunctional children in conflict-prone families frequently struggle with attachment issues and stress illnesses.
The Violent Family
No one should have to go through the horrifying experience of growing up in a chaotic or violent home. Not all forms of family violence are physical. It can also refer to any actions that cause you to feel uneasy such as verbal, sexual, or psychological assault. Research has revealed that witnessing domestic abuse can have the same catastrophic impact on children as actually experiencing it.4
The Emotionally Detached FamilyGrowing up in a dysfunctional home can be characterized by a lack of warmth or compassion from relatives. Lack of physical affection, as well as emotional absence, cause kids to suppress their emotions. This makes it difficult for dysfunctional children to communicate with others, resulting in a cycle of strained relationships. The effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family that is emotionally detached include psychological issues, such as low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
Overcoming the Dysfunctional Family Curse
Understand that no matter what type of family dysfunction affects your life, you can overcome it. Here are some effective methods to aid in your recovery from dysfunctional family systems:
Begin Trauma-Informed Therapy
Trauma can negatively impact all facets of your daily life and well-being. The first step towards finding sustainable healing often includes navigating therapy. Finding a qualified therapist that best suits your needs, as well as finding the right therapy type for you, can help you or your loved one to lead fulfilling lives and overcome the roots of your emotional and psychological strain. At Soledad House, we can help streamline this process for you.
Adopt Brain Healthy HabitsEven though you bear the psychological scars of childhood trauma, you can heal them and enhance your brain function. You can overcome dysfunctional family effects by forming healthy habits, such as exercising, eating well, and learning effective coping mechanisms
Find A Support Network
In the absence of your family, look for friends, a support system, or a therapist. These people in your life can support you in achieving your career and personal objectives. They can support you, assist you with life transitions, and teach you about yourself.
Work On Relationship SkillsYou can learn to form enduring friendships with others even if you didn’t have a healthy social environment while growing up.
Stop Being a VictimUnderstand that your past does not define you. You can choose differently as an adult. Find a healthy new normal instead of repeating the cycle you were in.
Get Support at Soledad House
Soledad House can assist you if you’re dealing with problems related to your upbringing in a dysfunctional family. We can provide effective, women-first treatment for drug and alcohol addiction that a dysfunctional family brings on in a supportive environment.
We will assist you in taking control of your life and achieving a better relationship with an emphasis on rehab programs and addiction treatment therapies. Contact Soledad House for assistance in overcoming the psychological effects of dysfunctional families and addiction treatment.