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The Dysfunctional Family Essay

In a family with one rebellious child, the other children have to “walk on egg shells” to avoid the wrath of their parents. Going beyond mere disagreement, an intense schism between family members regarding religion or ideology Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy towards one or more members (or even pets) who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than he or she deserves, while another is marginalized Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven enforcement of rules Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room.”)

Unhealthy parenting signs:

Giving “mixed messages” by having a dual system of values (i.e. one set for the outside world, another when in private, or teaching divergent values to each child) Stifled speech (children not allowed to dissent or question authority) Denial of an “inner life” (children are not allowed to develop their own value systems) Being under- or over-protective

Apathy “I don’t care!”
Belittling “You can’t do anything right!”
Unrealistic expectations
Ridicule

Bitterness (regardless of what is said, using a bitter tone of voice) The “know-it-all” (has no need to obtain child’s side of the story when accusing, or listen to child’s opinions on matters which greatly impact them) Either being a miser (“scrooge”) in totality or selectively allowing children’s needs to go unmet (e.g. father will not buy a bicycle for his son because he wants to save money for retirement or “something important”)

Dysfunctional parenting styles:

Perfectionist (fixating on order, prestige, power, and/or perfect appearances, while preventing their child from failing at anything) Dogmatic or cult-like (harsh and inflexible discipline, with children not allowed, within reason, to dissent, question authority, or develop their own value system) “The politician” (a parent who repeatedly makes or agrees to children’s promises while having little to no intention of keeping them)

Dynamics:

Parents vs. kids (generation gap or culture shock dysfunction) The balkanized family (named after the three-way war in the Balkans where alliances shift back and forth)

Children growing up in a dysfunctional family have been known to adopt one or more of these six basic roles: The Good Child (also known as the Hero): a child who assumes the parental role. The Problem Child or Rebel (also known as the Scapegoat): the child who is blamed for most problems related to the family’s dysfunction, despite often being the only emotionally stable one in the family. The Caretaker: the one who takes responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family. The Lost Child: the inconspicuous, quiet one, whose needs are usually ignored or hidden. The Mascot: uses comedy to divert attention away from the increasingly dysfunctional family system. The Mastermind: the opportunist who capitalizes on the other family members’ faults to get whatever he or she wants. Often the object of appeasement by grown-ups.

Effects on children

Children of dysfunctional families, either at the time, or as they grow older, may also: Lack the ability to be playful, or childlike, and may “grow up too fast”; conversely they may grow up too slowly, or be in a mixed mode (e.g. well-behaved, but unable to care for themselves) Have moderate to severe mental health issues, including possible depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts Become addicted to smoking, alcohol, and/or drugs, especially if parents or friends have done the same Bully or harass others, or be an easy victim thereof (possibly taking a dual role in different settings) Be in denial regarding the severity of the family’s situation Have mixed feelings of love–hate towards certain family members Become a sex offender, possibly including pedophilia.

Have difficulty forming healthy relationships within their peer group (usually due to shyness or a personality disorder) Spend an inordinate amount of time alone watching television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, listening to music, and other activities which lack in-person social interaction Feel angry, anxious, depressed, isolated from others, or unlovable Have a speech disorder (related to emotional abuse)

Distrust others or even have paranoia

Become a juvenile delinquent and turn to a life of crime (with or without dropping out of school), and possibly become a gang member as well Struggle academically at school or academic performance declines unexpectedly Have low self-esteem or a poor self image with difficulty expressing emotions Rebel against parental authority, or conversely, uphold their family’s values in the face of peer pressure, or even try to take an impossible “middle ground” that pleases no one Think only of themselves to make up the difference of their childhoods (as they are still learning the balance of self-love) Have little self-discipline when parents are not around, such as compulsive spending, procrastinating too close to deadlines, etc. (unfamiliar and seemingly lax “real-world” consequences vs. familiar parental consequences) Find an (often abusive) spouse or partner at a young age, and/or run away from home

Become pregnant and/or a parent of illegitimate children

Be at risk of becoming poor or homeless, even if the family is already wealthy or middle-class Have auto-destructive or potentially self-damaging behaviors Join a cult to find the acceptance they never had at home, or at a minimum, have differing philosophical/religious beliefs from what they were previously taught Strive (as young adults) to live far away from particular family members or the family as a whole Perpetuate dysfunctional behaviors in other relationships (especially their own children)


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