Dysfunctional family  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior and even abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal. Dysfunctional families are most often a result of the alcoholism, substance abuse like drugs, or other addictions of parents, parents' untreated mental illnesses/defects or personality disorders, or the parents emulating their own dysfunctional parents and dysfunctional family experiences.

Dysfunctional family members have common symptoms and behavior patterns as a result of their common experiences within the family structure. This tends to reinforce the dysfunctional behavior, either through enabling or perpetuation. The family unit can be affected by a variety of factors.

According to Steven Farmer, the author of Adult Children of Abusive Parents, there are several symptoms of family dysfunction:

  • Denial (i.e. a refusal to acknowledge the alcoholism of a parent; ignoring complaints of sexual abuse)
  • Inconsistency and Unpredictability
  • Lack of empathy toward family members
  • Lack of clear boundaries (i.e. throwing away personal possessions that belong to others, inappropriate touching, etc.)
  • Role reversals ("parentifying" children)
  • "Closed family system" (a socially isolated family that discourages relationships with outsiders)
  • Mixed Messages
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much or too little fighting between family members)


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Dysfunctional family" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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