HomeArticles8 Common Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family
8 Common Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family
November 15, 2019
Families are supposed to be the people you can lean on during tough times. At the end of the day, you know you can rely on them, and that they’ll love you even through thick and thin. But what about those of us who come from dysfunctional families? And are the signs always clear and obvious or can they be subtle and deceiving? Here are 8 common characteristics of a dysfunctional family. 1. Addiction Roughly 45% of the U.S. population has been exposed to some form of alcoholism or alcoholic behavior in their family. That’s as many as 76 million people. And approximately 26 million of those people are children. The addiction can be drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Addicted parents can have negative financial, communicative, or connective impacts on the family, affecting every family member’s ability to form close, healthy relationships with others. 2. Perfectionism This one can be difficult to spot, especially if a family looks picture-perfect on the outside. When perfectionism is highly regarded, and children have to bear their parents’ unrealistic expectations, they may grow up with self-image and self-esteem issues, believing they’ll never be good enough. They also have a hard time going to their parents when they need emotional support, so they may learn to close themselves up and have trouble trusting people. When parents prioritize performance and results, their children never learn to accept and improve upon their mistakes. 3. Abuse Abuse is another common characteristic of a dysfunctional family. It can be physical, emotional, and/or sexual. Abuse can occur between parents, parent and child, or siblings. People use abuse to punish their families for unwanted behavior, and stay in control when they believe they’ve been betrayed. If you think you’re being abused, we encourage you to call your emergency hotline number. 4. Unpredictability and fear Unpredictability and fear go hand-in-hand. It’s a pattern often produced from abuse, but can also stem from a family member’s financial or emotional instability. Children who come from an unpredictable household suffer from low self-esteem issues, and either grow up to become extremely responsible crowd-pleasers or end up mirroring their parents’ toxic behaviors. Unpredicability and fear are results of overly rigid or religious upbringings, when a family doesn’t allow family members to form their own beliefs, aspirations, and interests. 5. Conditional love In dysfunctional families, conditional love is exercised by manipulative people. When a parent or spouse only gives others love when they want something, they’re either insecure or selfish. For instance, a selfish mother might show love and support to their child just so that when the child reaches adulthood, they will take care of her. When love is conditional, it can make family members feel used or cheated. 6. Lack of boundaries When a family doesn’t establish healthy boundaries, members will often feel like they have no privacy, or aren’t being respected. Parent who see their children as trophies or extensions of themselves are narcissistic, causing children to feel confused about their own identities when they aren’t properly nurtured or encouraged. Boundaries are blurred when a parent tries to be controlling or dominant through anger. And children feel like they have no choice but to act or behave in certain ways to please their parent. As a result, they grow up feeling alienated or lost, and become overly self-critical. 7. Lack of intimacy Dysfunctional families often mistake codependency as intimacy. In healthy families, parents teach their children how to be self-efficient. But if a parent is scared of letting go, they’ll make claims about being able to live without their kids if they grow up and leave. Likewise, a spouse who may show excessive clinginess to their partner. It’s important for family members to be with each other because they want to, not because they have to. Ultimately, love is a selfless act, and should never be pressured or forced. 8. Poor communication Family conflicts typically stem from poor communication. When people can’t express themselves due to strained or nonexistant communication, they feel unheard, invisible, or misunderstood. Overall, dysfunctional families don’t practice healthy communication skills, so members can be quick to react rather than waiting to listen and understand. The resulting arguments cause daily stress and challenges that tear the family apart. Does your family identify with any of these characteristics? What methods have you tried to bring the family back together? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below. If you enjoyed this video, don’t forget to check out our other social media, and subscribe to our channel for more content. 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