Social-Cultural CAUSES of the Dysfunctional Family
- The dysfunctional family (relationship) is a cultural thing: it is the product of an
emotionally dishonest, shame based, patriarchal society – and based upon beliefs
that do not support the concept of "Love thyself", "Love thy neighbor", or "Do Unto
Others as you would have them do unto you" (Robert Burney). As we have seen
- Culture is the major determinant of what is "acceptable" - and what isn't; what is
"possible", and what isn't; what is "permissible", and what isn't.
- Culture is what teaches us what our "limits" for achieving our potential are: and thus
- The family is the smallest cultural unit - it is a culture itself.
- Dysfunctional family and relationship dynamics can be the
result of substance abuse (drugs/alcohol etc), poverty, death,
poor foster care - and many others.
- Dysfunctional Families & Relationships respect no boundaries:
they are found among rich and poor; educated and illiterate; in
all cultures, in all religions and political systems.
- Dysfunctional families & relationships go far beyond our role
models and our prototypes. These are dysfunctional – and that’
- Our "traditional" concepts of what a man is, of what a woman
is, and what a child is, are distorted and twisted stereotypes of
what masculine, feminine and childhood really are: they are
formed by the cultures we live in.
- Our cultures reinforce it through examples among "heroes",
public figures, magazines, advertising, and television, among
others. It is a "machismo" thing.
- Abuse and Violence are endemic: this is how power and
control are maintained, and transmitted - the cultural
transmission of dysfunction.
- No matter where we look - and I am trying not to be pessimistic
- we see violence: war, protests, exploitation, starvation, and
large scale poverty - when the resources to avoid all this are
- The "push" seems to be toward "control" and dominance - using force whenever, and
- Children learn from their parents and other significant adults: from what they see, hear,
observe and experience, they form their views on what is "right" and "wrong", "how life
is", what is permissible and acceptable, etc.
- The "model" cultures promote of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express
fear; when the model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or
aggressive, or a child to be a child - that is emotional dishonesty, and is severely
- When the standards of a society deny the full range of the emotional spectrum and label
certain emotions as negative - that is not only emotionally dishonest, it creates an
emotional sickness (our behaviour patterns are not a disease) they are behaviours
– and patterns of behaviour.
- When a culture is based on emotional dishonesty, with role models that are dishonest
emotionally, then that culture is also emotionally dysfunctional and maladaptive. For it
sets the people of that society up to be emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional in
getting their emotional needs met.
- What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it
is emotionally dishonest. Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role
modeling of their parents - and from the wider cultural setting they live in: in which they
are immersed; and by which they are surrounded.
- "Do as I say - not as I do," does not work with children or adults. Emotionally dishonest
parents (and cultural environment) cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and
cannot provide healthy parenting. Our cultural/familial model for what a family should
be sets up abusive, emotionally dishonest dynamics.
MAJOR Cultural CHARACTERISTICS and TRAITS Inventory
of sick, unhealthy, dysfunctional(alcoholic) families and relationships:
- Denial & Enabling: Denial is the mechanism that "keeps it going" (see Dysfunctional
Families). This is only a manifestation of cultural denial and enabling to maintain
exploitation and the status quo (see Denial/Enabling).
- Non-communication and secrecy: members of/from dysfunctional family (cultural
unit) avoid speaking about the situation and their feelings about it. The whole
dysfunctional, maladaptive situation results in feelings of futility and powerlessness
about being able to change anything. Later in life it leads to makes them want to drop
out of groups, blame everyone else, and do almost anything but communicate, or look
for meaningful change.
Anger and fear: in dysfunctional families (as in cultures), children are left with a constant
level of anger and fear, which becomes "normal" behaviour in these circumstances. Later, it
is exacerbated by any situation which threatens (or seems to threaten), or to mimic the
original situation (family dynamic). The anger is carried over from childhood into adulthood,
and later in life, when certain incidents arise, even if the anger is justified, its vehemence
will usually be greater than the situation deserves, due to the carry-over. Because it is in
part a carryover from childhood, the force or frequency of the anger may obscure its actual
cause, and the end result is frustration for everyone.
- Competition: (mirrored from the culture people find themselves in), there is a limited
amount of love, time, money, food, clothing, safety, etc, in dysfunctional families.
Family members learn that all of these things must be earned through competition.
Rather than developing ways of working together, family members pit themselves
against each other. Later in life they feel they have to compete with others (in all kinds
of situations and circumstances) to get a word in edgewise, to perform as well as
others, or to jockey for a power position.
- Unequal power structures: in most dysfunctional families (once again, as in the
various cultural environments) one person had the most power (often, but not always,
the father); the other adult (often, but not always, the mother) was dependent upon
him/her. The children, in turn, were dependent upon the weaker of the two. That
adult's powerlessness was compensated for through his or her power over the
children. The children were powerless against their parents and sought to make
pecking orders among themselves and their peers - because they learned to operate
within the family rules.
Dependence: dysfunctional family cultural unit members became dependent upon the very
people whose behaviors they didn't feel good about. Later in life these people are terrified
to let go of destructive patterns: of course, outsiders find this behavior baffling:
codependency at its worst - and thus repeating and perpetuating the cycle. It also often
leads to Codependency later in life.
- Guilt and shame: members of dysfunctional families usually are: powerless,
dependent, fearful and angry. These emotions are funneled into the subconscious
through secrecy. The end result is: a feeling of malaise (sickness); low self-esteem;
lack of trust, and a strong underlying sense of shame; also see "Guilt", a great cultural
mechanism to keep people from questioning the status quo.
- Lack of trust: this is the consequence of growing up in a dysfunctional family (or
growing up dysfunctional). It is a continuing state of dysfunctional family survivors. It
goes so deep that a vicious, repeating circle is formed, one which perpetuates the
situation: with the result that it both causes and increases all of the behaviours above
(see Building Trust). This is simply mirroring the cultural climate where people no
longer trust politicians, for example.
- That circle is known as the Cycle Of Violence & Abuse. Inability to trust leads to being
suspicious of everyone, and everything. There is always a suspicion that all others
have hidden motives and agendas: in fact, it is assumed that this is the case. This
leads to the inability to be fully authentic, honest and forth-right. To people raised in a
dysfunctional family, or trapped in a dysfunctional relationship, the opposite (healthy,
functional and adaptive) looks weird, strange, sick, intimidating and scary.
Our cultural human tendency is to judge/compare new experiences, ideas, practices,
customs, situations and people
in our lives by comparing them, or measuring them against what we know.
- To people raised in a dysfunctional family, or trapped in a dysfunctional relationship,
the opposite (healthy, functional and adaptive) looks weird, strange, "sick", intimidating
- Mostly, this is due to the fact that our human tendency is to "judge" new experiences,
people and situations in our lives by comparing them, or measuring them against what
- The "weirdness" actually consists in the fact that it is the "sick" situation we are using
as the "standard", as if, somehow, it was "right" and the other is "wrong".
- If we use the standard we were taught, we will never be able to break out of the
Amazingly, there are those who go counter to the prevailing cultural model
- and work out a family, or relationship system that doesn't follow the cultural pattern:
see Healthy Families, Comparing Healthy-UnHealthy Relationships, Male-Female Equality.
"Escape" from this is totally possible - see "The Awakening".
Klaas Tuinman M.A
Deerfield (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia - Rev: 2009
To cope, members of dysfunctional family systems resort to taking on “roles” within the
family that allow the system to be tolerable. The “taking on a role” is an unconscious act – it
is not deliberate: it is a survival "technique".
These, too,are products of our environment and culture (as represented by the family,
community, culture; "church" and state)
Since the family is the basic core of society - the problems and dysfunctions of society are
reflected in the family, and the dysfunctions of families are projected into society.
A "sufficient" number of dysfunctional (alcoholic) families causes the entire society to turn
dysfunctional: it is truly, and fully a "cultural" phenomenon: a sad, and destructive one -
often to be repeated, generation after generation - until someone breaks the cycle.
- Because the child is born into it, the family's method of functioning is seen as "normal",
rather than sick, maladaptive or deviant - it becomes simply "the way things are" for
that child. It is part of their socialization process.
- This form of dysfunction is shrouded in non-communication, alienation, fear, denial and
anger which, while shared by all, is not permissible to express.
- These feelings get channeled into standardized behavior patterns designed to keep
the unhealthy system functioning as smoothly as it can under the circumstances.
- The patterns become second nature, part of the basic survival mechanisms which
people carry through into all their subsequent situations.
|Culture and Its Effects on Family and Relationships
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|It is no measure of
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well-adjusted to a
profoundly sick society.
|People who really want to heal,
will find a way;
those who don't, will find an excuse.
|The Culture of Dysfunction
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Related topics: Abuse & Violence, Children-Roles, Codependency & Male-Female Equality, Lifeskills or Building Trust
|Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside assistance For Your Journey Through Life
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman MA, © 2007-2017
Questions and comments welcomed.