How Dysfunctional Families Screw You Up

Dysfunctional Families Screw You Up

I am about to attend a wills variation mediation where the three adopted siblings are contesting their deceased mother’s estate and the only agreement we have is that all three siblings hate each other- they are the screwed up  results of a very dysfunctional family where the deceased and her ” mommy’s boy” had an extra ordinarily close relationship to the detriment of the other two adopted siblings.

Regrettably, in the world of estate litigation my work almost exclusively involves the children of dysfunctional families who collectively and individually are often ” screwed up.”

Over my 40 plus  years of practice , I have seen innumerable   people  who are the screwed up products of a dysfunctional family.

For the most part they show the  emotional scars of growing up in such an environment once we delve into the family background .

What is continually amazing to me  is how often people have grown up in dysfunctional families and for a great part of their life, considered the family living situation to be in the realm of normal, when in fact by objective standards, it could be nothing other than dysfunctional .

Dysfunctional families invariably have so much conflict, neglect, personality disorders, and just general  unusual behavior that over time it leads family members to accommodate such behavior to the point that it can be problematic.

The behavior invariably becomes generational – the dysfunctional parents behavior is emulated by their children who in turn become parents, and exert the same behavior upon their children .

Dysfunctional families are typically strained  at the best of times, and when added stressors such as unemployment, relocation, physical or mental illness occur they can cause the existing conflicts to  become greatly exacerbated .

One of the great stigmas of dysfunctional families is not only the internal shame that each member may have, but also the societal standard that state intervention in the sanctity of marriage and the family  was not to be encouraged .

It is only in recent years  that the plight of the dysfunctional family has made the news so to speak  and individuals are speaking out with a greater degree of  frequency and  coherency.

The “mummy dearest” books  that occurred about 50 years ago  were an indication of what was to come in future years.

Children being as adaptable as they are  learn to  adapt and function within dysfunctional families  by often adopting or  being assigned a role .

The role may vary from that of the “perfect child” to be modeled by the others ,  to the “problem, a.k.a. scapegoat”, with the other siblings adopting or being assigned variations of  the family clown, the caretaker, the passive kid,  or the manipulator.

Needless to say these learned forms of behavior  in the critical years of development  are maintained  and  continued throughout the life of the  role  modelled child.

Negative criteria associated with dysfunctional families

The list of negative criteria  as a result of being raised in a dysfunctional  family is long and this article is not meant to be exhaustive on  the topic . There are no positives – none.

I have come to realize that almost every street person  is living there is a result of a dysfunctional family , ( except for perhaps the onset of mental illness in later life) .

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety  are very common  as are addiction issues  relating to alcohol, drugs, gambling and the like.

Many of the children of dysfunctional families simply had to grow up too fast and missed out on  childhood -the lucky ones were not abused physically or  sexually , but virtually all of them were emotionally scarred in some manner , whether by accident, neglect  or  deliberate acts .

The more physical , sexual or emotional abuse their  has been the greater difficulty the child will have been forming healthy relationships  with not only their peers, but in particular in long-term romantic relationships  and marriage.

Many students struggle academically  in school from everything from  lack of food and sleep  to having to drop out of school to support the family

Struggling for recognition and affection  many turn to  gang membership  or promiscuity.

Self-discipline problems are notorious  in that many children are raised without  boundaries and without being taught the fundamentals of how to  participate in society.

Instead they may become compulsive spenders or procrastinators afraid to  take steps  .

Almost all of these children have  low self-esteem issues  that makes them more vulnerable to  predators, manipulators and abusers .

The girls are more likely to become pregnant  and involved with abusive men while the boys are more likely to become  abusive  anti-authoritarian males .

Perhaps the greatest problem all   is that  the dysfunctional behaviors are invariably perpetuated in other relationships , and in particular by their own children .