No family is perfect, that much is true. Despite the idealized portrayal of “perfect” families in the media, the reality is that all families experience some level of dysfunction. However, the extent of dysfunction varies greatly from family to family and can be influenced by psychological and physical health, among other factors.
To determine a family’s level of dysfunction, it’s important to examine its dynamics. Internal conflicts such as severe sibling rivalry, parental and/or child conflict, and external conflict like drug and/or alcohol addiction, unemployment, gambling, or even extramarital affairs can all have a significant impact on family dynamics.
In almost all dysfunctional families, there are various roles taken on by its members to help the family survive. These roles include the enabler, hero, troublemaker/scapegoat, lost child, and mascot. Each role plays a crucial part in the family’s dynamic.
The enabler takes on the protective role and does whatever is necessary to take care of the family, no matter how bad the situation is. This can include protecting a parent who has an addiction, which is exceedingly stressful and often a lose-lose situation.
The hero is usually the firstborn and could be considered the poster child for the family. They make sure everything looks good to the outside world and are often in denial about any problems within the family.
The scapegoat tends to be the family’s “black sheep” and is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family. This family member takes the bullet for the team, and usually flies the coop first.
The lost child gets lost in the shuffle and is almost non-existent in the family. They insulate themselves, withdraw into their rooms to read or watch TV, avoid drama like the plague, and have no opinion, so they can never be counted upon to back anyone up.
The mascot tends to be the baby of the family and is the funny and mischievous one who intervenes when volatile situations arise. They suffer just as much as the rest of the family members, but they hide that suffering behind their comedic acts.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can wreak havoc on those who grow up with one. It is like being in an emotional prison, the only home you’ve ever known. There is rarely a release from this prison system, as psychological effects can last a lifetime.
Dysfunctional families often have characteristics such as abuse, emotional abuse, conditional love, and no boundaries. Sexual assault, physical beatings, or verbal lashings are all active types of abuse, and often these families get caught up in a loop that makes it seem as though the abuse is “normal.” Emotional abuse is considered inactive, and neglect leaves the child always begging for attention, always looking for ways to receive validation. In families where love is conditional, there is always an extreme disappointment. Members of this family are constantly striving to be perfect, as they know that if they don’t do what is expected of them, the “love” will be withdrawn. Families with no boundaries often have controlling parents who invade their children’s privacy and have a lack of respect for their boundaries.
In conclusion, no family is perfect and all families experience some level of dysfunction. However, it is important to examine a family’s dynamics and identify any harmful behaviors or attitudes that need to be addressed to promote healthier relationships. Dysfunctional families often take on specific roles to help the family survive, and these roles can have a lifelong impact on those who grow up in them. By understanding the characteristics of dysfunctional families, we can recognize harmful behaviors and break the cycle of dysfunction, allowing for healthier relationships and family dynamics.