10 September 2008


dys·func·tion \(ˌ)dis-ˈfəŋ(k)-shən\

Function: noun Date: circa 1916
1 : impaired or abnormal functioning 2 : abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group dysfunction>

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, 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. Violence and verbal abuse are typical outcomes. Choosing one or more of an appropriate twelve-step program has been found to be of great help to all the family involved.

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.
Examples: Role reversals ("parentifying" children), Inconsistency and Unpredictability, Extremes in conflict (either too much or too little fighting between family members) Farmer, S.: "Adult Children of Abusive Parents", pgs. 19-34. Ballantine Books, 1989.

While some people do put the FUN in dysfunctional, many others limp along successfully making the most of the emotional toolbox we got. We can upskill, choose to live otherwise and triumph over whatever dysfunction our family has.

I am inspired by stories of those who had the cards stacked against them, but who chose to live in ways that had meaning and made contributions to society. Do you know anyone who is NOT from a dysfunctional family? Maybe we should label them!

To read about one man who possibly scoffs at dysfunctional . . .
'I don't know who my parents are. In the orphanage I was brought up in, the emphasis was on self survival ... one would come up with different approaches to solving life's problems.' David Bussau, Don't Look Back. Amazon

Or to upskill . . . .
"Normal? Who's Normal?Not you, that's for sure! No one you've ever met, either. None of us are normal according to God's definition, and the closer we get to each other, the plainer that is."
John Ortberg in Everybody's Normal till You Get to Know Them.

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