Causes and Effects of Dysfunctional Family Relationships


To raise a healthy child requires consistent reliable diligence, love, kindness, effective communication and the ability to apply reasonable parameters and boundaries of discipline in the home. Understandably, financial and emotional provisions are standard necessities if one is to raise a balanced family and have a reasonable lifestyle. When parents repeatedly fail to deliver their roles with awareness and sensitivity to each member of the family, the family unit may become unbalanced. Difficult behaviours may result in one or all of the family members. Dysfunctional relationships occur and are maintained when the action and communication lines are continuously breeched and broken and cannot be restored for the benefit of each party.

The infant is designed positively at birth to receive a level of quality nurturing from its biological care givers. Apart from the infant’s absolute dependency, all infants come into this world with physiological and emotional needs that ought to be considered responsibly and lovingly as they grow and develop. The family environment that parents create plays an important role in determining how an infant will be raised and whether it will be a well adjusted child, teenager and finally, a responsible adult, who in turn will rear its own well orientated family.

Long term deprivation, neglect or abuse of specific needs (caused by insensitive parenting roles), are able to affect a child’s development, emotional responses and personality formation. These behaviours will readily transfer from parents to their offspring. If dysfunctional role modelling and communication have occurred within the family without any intervention and no behaviour modifications are managed in the individual’s lifetime, the transmission of these behaviours is probable and will very likely prevail into the next generation.

Frequent displays of negative (or absent) communication and behaviour, by one or more persons within the family, which are ultimately difficult for the family members to cope with, will seep into the family, creating a dysfunctional set of relationships. Each individual in the family may encounter a level of reaction while relationships spiral and change into a fixed pattern of responses that deal with what they are experiencing. These burdening moments defy the norm. Families may be openly oblivious of these events and may accept the havoc as it comes because this is what they are used to, while others unused to the change may grasp for unusual coping mechanisms or hopefully, realistic and humane solutions to avoid their re-occurrence.

All families experience their unique troubles and problems at some stage or another. In all fairness, these events should pass. We all know this. Life in this millennium is not designed to be a straight line without hitches and bumpy rides now and again. However, when problems re-occur frequently in the home, parents need to be aware of them and pay attention to their remedy if they are to avoid permanently dysfunctional relationships within the family.

Symptoms that may be the cause or effect of the dysfunctional family may include one or more of these consistent behaviours:

– Difficult parents without adequate flexibility and insight

– Absent parenting style (there, but not there)

– Ridicule or belittling, or over-criticizing

– Prejudice towards one or more family members

– Mixed feelings of love and hate

– Faulty communication

– Lack of attentiveness to issues of importance (brush off, downplay or avoidance)

– Lack of care or concern for the needs of another (absent care or denial)

– Lacking in the ability to empathise with children, siblings or parents

– Dual values and double standards, or lack of clear boundaries

– Diminished ability to make decisions

– Over-interest or micro management of one member or the entire family

– Insensitivity towards other family member(s)

– Emotional intolerance

– Emotional outbursts

– Emotional insecurities

– Depression, deep rooted anxiety and feelings of gloom and despair

– Childish behaviours in adults

– Poor self image and worth, or lack of sufficient self identity

– Controlled/contrived speech or stifled speech

– Verbal abuse which others must tolerate

– Sexual or physical abuse that other members must accommodate

– Overworked family environment lacking any family fun (workaholic – no recreation)

– Perfectionist behaviours, over-demanding parents or children

– Disowning behaviours of parents or children

– Isolation or inadequate socialising with others

– Narcissistic parents or children

– Rule-by-fear parenting

– Bullying (to re-gain the upper hand)

– Growing up too fast because of advanced roles

– Reduction of roles and responsibilities caused by over protectiveness

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