A dysfunctional, sick, unfulfilling family or relationship is a secretive system with a lot of
scapegoating, denial and enabling.
Don't Trust, Don't Feel, Don't Touch, Don't Talk
- Rules/motto of the Dysfunctional Family (taboo):
(learning early to keep the family's secrets).
- Children (kids) learn from their parents! The things children see, hear, watch, observe and
experience their parents doing - are the things that "tell" the children "how life is"; what's okay;
what's acceptable, etc.
- After all, that's where we learned (obtained) our basic notions about life - and those go (went)
very deep! We become victims and survivors.
- Thus, the dysfunctional pattern is usually repeated by adult children of dysfunctional (alcoholic)
families: a cycle - unless they become survivors, children from these families/relationships
will tend to adopt their parents' patterns.
- Children who have grown-up in dysfunctional families share the traits of: fear, shame and
- A dysfunctional family depends on harmful or counter-productive methods in order to function.
It is a system that doesn't work very well: it is chaotic, harmful and hurts the people in it:
- it is a major source of stress and depression/anxiety, with many people living lives of quiet
desperation (or as some describe it, a "living hell").
- In this family or relationship, counter-productive actions are repeated again and again until they
become an inherent part of the system, because the overall functioning of the system becomes
more important than the means: it is a maladaptive or deviant group/system.
|Can wounded adult children
recover, heal and lead
creative, functional lives?
Yes, they can - and they do!
See - Survivors Podium on
this site; Sharing the Healing
Stories: Survivors of Abuse,
Dysfunction, Addiction and
their healing journey stories
Traits: Children who grow up in dysfunctional, alcoholic and unfulfilling homes and families and
spiritual damage to the child - with devastating consequences.
They are robbed of their childhood.
Their childhood is taken away from them - never to be regained
- with devastating consequences: unless they become survivors: they take on character "roles".
They often become "parentified".
Briefly, parentification is the process of role reversal whereby a child is obliged to act as parent to
their own parent. In extreme cases, the child is used to fill the void of the alienating parent's
As “parentified children”, these children do such things as: dressing the younger kids, house
cleaning, preparing lunch and dinner for the entire family, caring for and supervising the younger
children and, acting as parents to their own parents.
To misguided eyes, their adult behavior and wisdom is looked upon as cute because they seem to
have naivete combined with these characteristics far beyond their years. In point of fact, these
children are very unfortunate in many ways.
Causes: an important one to these children (any children, actually), is the possibility of
abandonment. The adultified child takes on responsibilities in the hope that it will hold the family
together by keeping mom and dad around; to avoid being abandoned.
Not all "causes" are "negative" in the way the above are. One reality of our time is that there are
many single parent families. In these families, it falls upon children to carry adult responsibilities
while their parent is out working. Often, in these situations, the parent is asking or expecting the
child to take on adult responsibilities in their absence. The children, in a very large sense, become
the parent of the household in the interim between coming home from school and when the
parent returns to the household.
There are two main consequences from being parentified:
- intense anger,
- and an inability to form solid attachments later in life
(which creates many future relationship difficulties).
This is different from the role mentioned above.
The most seriously devastating of the "roles" is the Lost Child syndrome - for there is real
emotional-mental damage there (and a primary focus of our Counseling-recovery healing services
(see "Children - Roles" for more detail).
- Characteristics: In a dysfunctional, alcoholic or sick family, there is usually at least one
person who exercises ownership of/over everyone else in that family system-unit. They treat
all others in it as if they own them! Thus, feeling that they quite rightly can treat them
anyway they want.
- Dysfunction in families/relationships knows no boundaries: it is found among rich and poor;
among all cultures, races and religions & political systems.
Closely connected to this overview of dysfunctional families are the following three inter-related
aspects of the consequences of growing up in one:
These are The Inner Child-Child Within, Adult Children's adaptive "Roles",
and The Lost Child Role/Syndrome.
|Walk with Me
Through darkened rooms we'll climb
Past covered dust-filled sculptures in
With hand in Mine we'll fight the
shadows left behind
Till all that's hid within is brought to
Fear not that which is lurking in the
Nor tremble at the sights which you
For if in Me you trust with all your
Then all the times of sorrow I'll
In unhealthy, toxic, sick, dysfunctional, maladaptive
- Try to control or manipulate the others ("use")
- Make the others feel bad about themselves
- Ridicule or call names
- Dictate how others dress
- Do not make time for each other
- Criticize others' friends
- Are afraid of the other's temper
- Discourage all from being close with anyone else
- Ignore each other when one is speaking
- Are overly possessive or get jealous about ordinary behavior
- Criticize or support others in criticizing people with your
gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability,
or other personal attribute
- Control others' money or other resources
- Harm or threaten to harm children, family, pets, or objects of
- Use physical force or threats to prevent others from leaving
- Children growing up in a dysfunctional family often display
behaviour problems because of the effect.
Dysfunctional / Alcoholic Toxic Families: Characteristics & Traits
Dysfunctional, Toxic Alcoholic Families
Effects on Adult Children, Victims and Survivors
If you are an "Adult Child", what you are about to read is a description of
your family, and not an indictment of you.
It describes the effects and behaviour patterns that result from toxic families,
and were learned as results of a particular life history – and which can be
Dysfunction means "Does Not Work! "
These toxic dysfunctional families are responsible for the behaviours its
members,especially the children, engage in as coping and survival strategies.
These learned behaviours generally cause serious problems in their future
lives - the young children grow up to become "adult children".
In many situations families often put us in the difficult position of choosing
between family loyalty and maintaining our own healthy boundaries.
Family dynamics are heavily influenced by cultural values; and some cultures
put a very high value on the closeness of family, as well as being loyalty to
family. Other cultures do not.
If you come from a culture which places a high value on familial loyalty and
your family is fairly toxic, you can be in trouble. It can create a real challenge to
your own mental health.
What does a toxic family look like?
Toxicity in families can take as many forms are there are families, so it would be
impossible to list them all. What you will find here is an outline or character
sketch of the dysfunctional toxic family.
The Dysfunctional Family/Relationship
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the
part of individual parents occur continually and regularly. With the results that the other members end
up accommodating such actions. Children who grow up in such families often end up believing that such
an arrangement is normal.
Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of codependent adults, and may also be affected by
addictions, such as substance abuse (e.g., alcohol or drugs), or sometimes an untreated mental illness.
Dysfunctional parents may emulate or over-correct from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases,
a "child-like" parent will allow the dominant parent to abuse their children.[Anon]
- In an alcoholic, dysfunctional, sick family, the important life needs of members are not met:
physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. There is no "safety", and certainly no happiness.
- Please note: the word "dysfunctional" as used here, means those important needs are seldom or
never met: it does not refer to where for all of us, where at times some of our needs are not met
because of momentary circumstances, or where someone else's needs at the time were more
important. I positive family settings, there is a balanced approach to meeting everyone's needs as
much, and as best as possible.
The Dysfunctional Family
It is a family, relationship, system or culture where one or both of the primary caretakers
(parents etc) were unable to fulfill their family responsibilities; or one in which physical, emotional, or
sexual abuse was experienced: a culture of dysfunction, with many forms of violence and abuse.
- Alcohol & Dysfunction feature inconsistent and unpredictable parenting, or has uncaring, neglectful,
or critical parent-child interactions.
- There are many "causes" for dysfunction (addiction, violence/abuse etc), but the results all follow
one identical pattern that is easily recognizable: what applies to one, applies to all: the
Recovery/Healing, escape or overcoming is the same: it is like an "Awakening".
|People who really want to heal,
will find a way;
those who aren't ready yet,
will find an excuse.
|Roadside Assistance for your healing and reconciliation Journey Of Life
Adult Children of Dysfunctional Toxic Families/Relationships - Resource
|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.