Children are supposed to grow up together with their parents. A family environment helps them not to feel depress(ed). They learn that their feelings and needs are important and can be expressed. Children growing up in such supportive environments are likely to form healthy, open relationships in adulthood. Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. In most families, there occurs some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances. These stressful events could be a death in the family or a parent’s serious illness, among others.
But for healthy families, the moment the crisis is over, then normal functioning resumes. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic. The children then do not consistently get their needs. As a result, the negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives. Healthy families are not families who never argue or have disagreements. These families may have yelling, bickering, misunderstanding, tension, hurt, and anger – but not all the time. In healthy families, emotional expression is allowed and accepted.
Member of the family can freely ask for and give attention. Rules tend to be made explicit and remain consistent, but with some flexibility to adapt to individual needs and particular situations. Healthy families allow for individuality; each member is encouraged to pursue his or her own interests, and boundaries between individuals are honored. Children from healthy families are consistently treated with respect, and do not fear emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Parents can be counted on to provide care for their children.
Children are given responsibilities appropriate to their age and are not expected to take on parental responsibilities. Finally, in healthy families, everyone makes mistakes; and most importantly, mistakes are allowed. II. The rise of dysfunctional families and its impact in society There are many types of dysfunction in families. Some parents choose to under-function. They leave their children to fend for themselves. On the other hand there are some parents who over-function. These parents seem to never allow their children to grow up and be on their own.
Others are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior. Below is a brief description of some types of parental dysfunction along with some common problems associated with each. Deficient Parents Deficient parents hurt their children more by omission than by commission. Frequently, it is because of a chronic mental illness or a disabling physical illness that contributes to parental inadequacy. Parental emotional needs tend to take precedence over the needs of the children. The children, on the other hand, are often asked to be their parents’ caretakers.
Thus, children tend to take on the adult responsibilities at a young age in these families. They are robbed of their own childhood, and they learn to ignore their own needs and feelings. Because of this experience, where these children are simply unable to play an adult role and take care of their parents, they thenoften feel inadequate and guilty. These feelings continue into adulthood. Controlling Parents Unlike the deficient parents described above, controlling parents fail to allow their children to assume responsibilities appropriate for their age.
Often, the controlling parents are driven by the fear of becoming unnecessary to their children. These parents then continue dominating and making decisions for their children, even if they are already well beyond the age at which this is necessary. This fear leaves them feeling betrayed and abandoned when their children become independent (Forward, 1989). On the other hand, these children of controlling parents frequently feel resentful, inadequate, and powerless. Transitions into adult roles are quite difficult, as these adults frequently have difficulties making decisions independent from their parents.
When they act independently these adults feel very guilty, as if growing up were a serious act of disloyalty. Alcoholic Parents Alcoholic families tend to be chaotic and unpredictable. Rules that apply one day do not apply to another one or to the next instance that you happen to be part of. Promises are neither kept nor remembered. Expectations vary from one day to the next. Parents may be strict at times and indifferent at others. In addition, emotional expression is frequently forbidden and discussion about the alcohol use or related family problems is usually nonexistent.
Family members are usually expected to keep problems a secret, thus preventing anyone from seeking help. All of these factors leave children feeling insecure, frustrated, and angry. Children often feel there must be something wrong with them and this is the reason that makes their parents behave this way. Mistrust of others, difficulty with emotional expression, and difficulties with intimate relationships carry over into adulthood. Children of alcoholics are at much higher risk for developing alcoholism than are children of non-alcoholics. Abusive Parents Abuse can be verbal, physical, or sexual.
Verbal abuse – such as frequent belittling criticism – can have lasting effects, particularly when it comes from those entrusted with the child’s care. Criticism can be aimed at the child’s looks, intelligence, capabilities, or basic value. Some verbal abusers are very direct, while others use subtle put-downs disguised as humor. Both types are just as damaging. Definitions of physical abuse vary widely. Many parents, at one time or another, have felt the urge to strike their child. With physically abusive parents, however, the urge is frequent and little effort is made to control this impulse.
Striking a child has much to do with meeting the parent’s emotional needs and nothing to do with concern for the child. Often, parents erroneously justify the abuse as a process of “discipline” that is intended to “help” the child. Physically abusive parents then create an environment of terror for the child. This is particularly worse since the violence is often random and unpredictable. Abused children often feel anger. Children of abusive parents have tremendous difficulties developing feelings of trust and safety even in their adult lives.
While parents may justify or rationalize verbal or physical abuse as discipline aimed at somehow helping the child, there is no rationalization for sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is the most blatant example of an adult abusing a child purely for that adult’s own gratification. Sexual abuse can be any physical contact between an adult and child wherein that contact must be kept secret. The demonstrations of affection that occurred then — such as hugging, kissing, or stroking a child’s hair — that can be done openly are quite acceptable and even beneficial.
When physical contact is shrouded in secrecy then it is most likely inappropriate. Sexual abuse happens to both boys and girls. This act is perpetrated by both men and women. It cuts across lines of race, socioeconomic level, education level, and religious affiliation. In most cases, sexual abuse is part of an overall family pattern of dysfunction, disorganization, and inappropriate role boundaries. Responsibility for the sexual abuse in all cases rests entirely with the adult. No child is responsible for being abused. Most sexually abused children are too frightened and scared of the consequences for themselves and their families.
In most cases, they do not risk telling another adult what is happening. As a result of this bottling-up, they grow into adulthood carrying feelings of self-loathing, shame, and worthlessness. They tend to be self-punishing and have considerable difficulties with relationships and with sexuality. When problems and circumstances such as parental alcoholism, mental illness, child abuse, or extreme parental rigidity and control interfere with family functioning, the effects on children can sometimes linger long after these children have grown up and left their problem families.
Adults raised in dysfunctional families frequently report difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships, maintaining positive self-esteem, and trusting others; they fear a loss of control, and deny their feelings and reality (Vannicelli, 1989). There is a great deal of variability in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families, and in the kinds and the severity of their dysfunction. However, when patterns like the above are the norm rather than the exception, they systematically foster abuse and/or neglect.
Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children’s trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgement and actions, or their own senses of selfworth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities. In common with other people, abused and neglected family members often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.
” The more they have to accommodate to make the situation seem normal, the greater is their likelihood of misinterpreting themselves and developing negative self-concepts (e. g. , “I had it coming; I’m a rotten kid”). III. The relationship between religion and dysfunctional families 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 dysfunctional family usually suffers from a variety of issues that may require the help of trained professionals.
This is in addition to prayer and other spiritual disciplines. Some of those issues include: (1) Individual personality differences and personal issues; (2) Unresolved issues from the past; (3) Marital and family problems due to domestic violence and abuse, infidelity, and poor communication; (5) Financial problems and poverty; (6) Separation/divorce resulting in grief and loss and abandonment issues, depression, and sometimes a lack of financial support; (7) Mental and physical health problems; and (8) Spiritual disconnection.
Any of the aforementioned problems can create high levels of distress, and failure to seek help can be lethal. Furthermore, when a major trauma strikes, families are rarely prepared to deal with it, and if they are unaccustomed to seeking outside help, family members may never recover emotionally. Many people stay away from connecting with God in a Christian community because they feel they are not good enough. Maybe they are overly critical of themselves, or maybe they know they have not lived the way God would want them to live.
They may be afraid that Christians in church will judge them and reject them, and so they stay away. They say, “God couldn’t really love someone like me. God must be angry with me. ” They could also be very adept at meeting the perceived expectations of others through self-denial. Denial, repression, splitting, and a false sense of self are often well-developed defense mechanisms. The black and white thinking expressed in such conflicting pairs of opposites as God vs. devil, church vs. world, sin vs.
righteousness, leads to repression of anything that might possibly be construed as unacceptable. Constant self-monitoring and rigid self control, along with confession of every sin in prayer, are often considered the only means of avoiding divine condemnation. In the literalism characteristic of fundamentalism, an “evil” thought or feeling is regarded as just as sinful as an evil act. Impulses and feelings may be considered demonic in origin. In truth, religion can play a part in furthering the dysfunction of families.
For one who has a dysfunctional family, its teachings of obedience, respect for authority and quiet compliance further enforce the debilitating situation. But when you dig deeper into what religion is, you will see clearly what God wants. Religious Institutions throughout history have used fear, control and manipulation to build kingdoms made by man. They have left many wounded or dead in the battlefield of Satan’s kingdom. Religion is a powerful tool of the enemy. An extreme example of this is The Taliban and Bin Laden.
Religion teaches obedience to law. And Christ teaches grace. But the scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. ” Galatians 3:22-23. Learning to trust wholeheartedly in God, and depend on Him to break free from whatever bondage, will bring emancipation from these bondages, and make an impact in our broken society.
The church should be the one institution where the spirit of fear does not exist and coercion and manipulation are not practiced. IV. Healing dysfunctional families Two centuries ago there was relatively little dispute over the existence of God, or the societally beneficial effect of popular belief in a creator. In the twentieth century extensive secularization occurred in western nations, the United States being the only significant exception (Bishop; Bruce; Gill et al. ; Sommerville).
Theists often assert that popular belief in a creator is instrumental towards providing the moral, ethical and other foundations necessary for a healthy, cohesive society. Many also contend that widespread acceptance of evolution, and/or denial of a creator, is contrary to these goals. As he helped initiate the American experiment Benjamin Franklin stated; “religion will be a powerful regulator of our actions, give us peace and tranquility within our minds, and render us benevolent, useful and beneficial to others” (Isaacson: 87-88).
Changes in family life have transformed our society in the last thirty years. One of the biggest has been the virtual disappearance of the male-breadwinner lifestyle and the emerging dominance of the dual-earner couple. Working wives and mothers face questions about the effects of their choices on their children’s welfare and their own health under the strain of the “second shift,” while their husbands confront–and respond to in a variety of ways–new opportunities to construct a masculine identity not focused exclusively on breadwinning.
Leaders in education, business, and government debate what policies should be in place to help people manage their work and family lives and who should bear the cost of work-family management. Changing patterns of family formation and disruption have also created widespread concern and vociferous policy debates. High divorce rates raise questions about the effects of divorce on children’s well-being and future success and how to make “blended” families work. The problems facing single-parent families have become a focus of policy makers, religious leaders, and the national media.
Debates about homosexual unions have led to battles over gay and lesbian marriage in a number of states and many local controversies over what legal rights should be extended to homosexual partners. Delayed marriage and childbearing mean that more American households comprise single adults and childless couples, and remaining childless throughout life has become much more common, fueling concern among some about the decline of the family. All of these changes have led to an increasing pluralism in family life and a new consensus that there are many kinds of loving, caring families.
Most people spend some portion of their adult lives outside of a nuclear family, forming and reforming family-like connections periodically over the course of their lives, causing many to rethink long-held assumptions about the necessity of marriage and parenting for adults’ happiness, security, and well-being. But this pluralism is intensely contested and debated for both moral and social philosophical reasons. Not everyone agrees about what constitutes “the good family” and what kinds of families are morally legitimate.
Many people see the family as the bellwether of our society and find the rapid and numerous changes in family life over the last few decades to be troubling. Some even argue that a devaluing of family life, and especially of lifelong, heterosexual marriage, inevitably leads to a decline of the nation. These debates also focus on questions of resources and inequality. Who has access to the rights that marriage confers? Why does divorce lead to a reduction in women and children’s standard of living, and what can be done to change that? Making Changes
Changes in family life have been a central concern for religious leaders, activists, and local communities of faith. Throughout American history, religion and family have been intertwined and interdependent institutions. Congregations, parishes, and synagogues have provided an important context for families to spend time together and have shaped the religious education and moral development of children and youths. Sociologists have long noted that marriage and parenthood make religion more important to people and increase their participation in local congregations.
Sometimes, children who come from dysfunctional families continue in their roles because they are waiting for their parents to give their “permission”; to change. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart efforts to change and insist that the children “change back. ” Some specific changes one can do are: (1) Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood; (2) Make a list of your behaviors, beliefs, etc.
that you would like to change; (3) Next to each item on the list, write down the behavior, belief, etc. that you would like to do/have instead; (4) Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behavior or belief. Choose the easiest item first; (5) Once you are able to do the alternate behavior more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too; (6) Believe in God’s grace that he will heal all the painful experiences in your list (in no.
1) and pray His love will help you change all the behaviors listed and free you from bondage. References: Bishop, George. (1999). “What Americans Really Believe, and Why Faith Isn’t as Universal as They Think. ” Free Inquiry 19(3): 38-42 Bruce, Steve. (2001). “Christianity in Britain, R. I. P. ” Sociology of Religion 61: 191-203. Forward, S. (1989). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York: Bantam Books. Gill, R, C. Hadaway and P. Marler 1998 “Is Religious Belief Declining in Britain?
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37: 507-16 Isaacson, Walter. (2003) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, Simon & Schuster. “Meeting the Needs of Dysfunctional Families” Catechist, January, (1993) Sommerville, C. (2002) “Stark’s Age of Faith Argument and the Secularization of Things: A. Commentary. ” Sociology of Religion 63: 361-72 Vannicelli, M. (1989). Group psychotherapy with adult children of alcoholics: treatment techniques and countertransference. New York: Guilford Press.