The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Dysfunctional family

Family dysfunction can be any circumstance that interferes with healthy family functioning. Dysfunctional family is the term used to describe a family where conflict, misbehaviour and abuse take place on a continuing basis, and in which the children live with the conception that this is normal.

Dysfunctional family members have common symptoms and behavior patterns as a result of their common experiences within the family structure. The dysfunctional family knows no social, financial or intellectual bounds.

Many dysfunctional family heads under-function, providing few boundaries and little guidance. Their children are left to fend for themselves. Others are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior. Family members may then have profound difficulties both with their own conduct, and their ability to deal with others.

Frequently, the dysfunctional family stems from alcoholism. The problems created tend to be chronic, and are passed down generation to generation. Even if abuse of alcohol ends, the family system created may continue in the children of the children. The effects are on what is often called the inner child (by educators such as John Bradshaw).

In order to survive, children growing up in a dysfunctional family can adjust by adopting one of four basic roles:

  1. "The Good Child" - often the family hero who assumes the parent role
  2. "The Problem Child" - becomes the scapegoat
  3. "The Caretaker" - takes responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family
  4. "The Lost Child" inconspicuous, the quiet one.

Examples in TV series

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46