What Causes a Family to Become Dysfunctional and How to Fix It?


There must have been times when you heard shouting from your parent’s bedroom every night or cowered in fear of a scolding too harsh. When you wish your parents were there to support you or the engulfing sadness of not being provided for crippled you. If you experience such occurrences often, these may be signs that you have a dysfunctional family.

A dysfunctional family has an abusive, neglectful, and toxic relationship between the members of the family. Such families can force the members to become timid and accept such treatment under the guise of love and care. But in reality, they are as toxic and harmful to your mental health as any other abusive relationship in the world.

In a dysfunctional family, you may often lack a safe space that allows you to open up about your emotions or express your thoughts completely. Fear of adverse repercussion lingers at the back of your mind, and you seek isolation as a result. Unable to grow and thrive in such conditions, you may look for harmful coping mechanisms. But at the same time, every member of a dysfunctional family wishes to live a healthy life. So, what causes a family to become dysfunctional in the first place? Researchers and psychologists find that the characteristics that bloom a dysfunctional family are:

1. Poor communication 

Communication is undeniably the most crucial aspect of any relationship, and every healthy relationship thrives on effective communication. But in dysfunctional families, the members often feel misunderstood or like their voices are not even heard. It shows their inability to communicate with one another effectively, leading them to become disjointed.

Eventually, such family members become distant and rely on outsiders to share their grief and sufferings. It creates aggression, frustration, and mistrust, among various other issues. But fortunately, these issues can be solved through family therapy options. So, we urge you to find out more about family therapy and its benefits if you experience such passive aggression in your house.

2. Substance abuse 

Dysfunctional families are either a result of a drug or alcohol abuser or become the cause of someone’s addiction. So, when substance abuse happens in the family, this phenomenon’s presence unknowingly assigns different roles and rules within the family. For example, someone becomes the enabler of such behavior, or someone else takes the brunt of the addict’s fall.

Typically, children or women in the family become the scapegoat for the addict, acting out their role of deflecting negativity and tolerating repercussions.

3. Perfectionism 

Often, the perfectionist personality of a patriarch or the matriarch causes a family to become dysfunctional. In such cases, the brunt usually falls on children and other family members. When other family members don’t fulfill the expectations of that person, they automatically become a failure in their eyes.

Such a mindset has a very long-lasting adverse effect on the mental health of children and other family members. You can typically recognize it from the lack of playfulness in the children’s lives. After all, the struggle for perfectionism clouds everyone in constant negativity. It gives way to insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.

4. Control 

Another sign of a dysfunctional family is the patriarch’s or matriarch’s constant attempts to maintain control over every family member. They create an environment of toxic codependency that strips every other family member from freedom and control. Common signs of a controlling parent include lack of affection, constant comparisons, lack of privacy, and freedom to make decisions. These aspects raise insecure and frustrated children who don’t get the chance to grow as they would have in a healthy family. They also lack confidence and basic decision-making skills.

These are some characteristics of a dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, these aspects often lead to domestic abuse, conflict, psychological abuse, manipulation, etc. But is there any way to fix a dysfunctional family?

How to fix a dysfunctional family

Suppose you realize that you have a dysfunctional family and want to fix it. In that case, you must begin by stopping the toxic behaviors that directly affect you. You can verbalize your issue and set your boundaries, leading to healthier and sustainable family life. Therefore, some steps are:

1. Set your boundaries 

One thing all dysfunctional families lack is boundaries. Lack of limits to one’s privacy, performance, and communication lead to passive aggression and other issues. Therefore, if you want to protect yourself from the toxicity of a dysfunctional family, you must begin by setting up your boundaries.

Communicate your boundaries whenever needed to every member of the family. With time, they’ll realize that there is a line they cannot cross. If they do, you can take the liberty to physically and mentally detach yourself from the family. Some steps include limiting interactions, moving out, etc.

2. Involve everyone

You cannot fix a dysfunctional family alone. You need the help of all the members to bring effective change. While it may seem impossible to cooperate without going up at each other’s neck, you can act as the leader and regulator in this struggle. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask for cooperation and make your family listen to you by voicing your needs and concerns.

3. Fix relationships one by one 

Suppose you want your family to cooperate with you. In that case, you must be in a position that makes you essential and significant to all of them. Therefore, you can start by fixing your relationship with one member of the family at a time. If you want everyone to be on board with your message of change, then you must show them a healthy relationship with yourself first. Therefore, focus on improving the quality of your relationship with each family member. Once you succeed, move forward as a team.

4. Get rid of that ego 

The most basic cause of a conflict is ego. When ego plays a significant and debilitating role in the family, it can never become functional. It desires to control and gain victory over care and love. It craves dominance over other people to satisfy its needs. It is the ego that makes a person offensive, defensive, and stubborn in the first place. Thus, if you want a functional family, you must stop your ego interfering with your cause.

You can achieve these results by calmly communicating the importance of this cause to other family members. Arguments and shouting won’t cut it, so avoid them as much as possible and opt for peaceful communication instead.


It may seem almost impossible to fix a dysfunctional family because of ego, codependence, fear, and stubbornness. But once you find a way to make yourself heard, you can slowly but surely progress with each relationship. It will allow you to create a somewhat pleasant environment until you are ready to involve everyone and work as a team. However, life doesn’t always go as planned. In such cases, opt for distancing yourself and defining your boundaries for the sake of your mental and physical health.

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Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Isreal Olabanji DST RNhttps://www.healthsoothe.com
Am Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues. We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.

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