Dysfunctional families and effects on children

Dysfunctional families and effects on children
A functional family provides basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter and health care. It nurtures by assuring security, warmth and a friendly environment. Every member feels included in important decisions; social space of each is respected and recognised.

Every member is loved unconditionally, enhancing self-esteem, which fosters self-acceptance that equips them with healthy spirituality and reliance on a higher power. A family that fails to meet most of these expectations may be regarded as dysfunctional.

Such dysfunctionality is attributable to several reasons, among them; alcohol and substance dependence, emotional or psychological disturbance, physical or sexual abuse, religious rigidity and intolerance, among other reasons.

Children from dysfunctional families tend to be secretive and ill at ease in company. They are not sure about "normal" behavior, but watch and ape others. Those children have low concentration, which affects their time management. They simply fail to meet deadlines. They are adept at using lies and excuses to cover their failings. They feel guilty having fun as they consider scarcity a norm.

Peers do not understand their queer mood swings, hence avoid them. Such children have few intimate friends. They react violently to change, resorting to demonstrations, riots and strikes instead of dialogue. Since they are rarely sure of themselves, they seek external approval and affirmation.

Easily lured

They are indecisive. When functioning in a group setting, they feel different from others; crave favours, seek sympathy, fake illness and request special diet. When given responsibility, they are either super-responsible or super irresponsible.

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When in the presence of authority, they are exceedingly obedient, prone to sycophancy and hero worship. They succumb easily to group think; their actions are mechanical and devoid of serious analysis. They are easily lured to act as hired goons, hecklers and hooligans. Those who are victims of incest and sexual abuse suffer sleep and eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, hysteria, shame and anger. They may play truant, become delinquent, run away from home, and get into prostitution and at some point attempt suicide. Children whose parents are religiously rigid are dominated by oppressive practices that make them hate religion. Their feelings and beliefs are constantly in conflict, making them susceptible to hysteria. At maturity, they are secretive and rebellious.

Stressful career

In an alcoholic family where the father is a dependent, the spouse who is co-dependent or enabler feels guilty, ashamed, bitter and defensive. To cope and protect the family, she underrates the problem, blames a scapegoat such as a domineering father, difficult bosses, or a stressful career. She may intellectualise claiming alcoholism is inherited; or she may live in total denial claiming drinking is normal behaviour for a man.

Often, their first child becomes the family hero ready to rescue all from want and insecurity. He or she is determined to succeed at all cost, though still a child; becomes bitter for lost childhood; blames God for the problem; overworks, over-achieves, but is never satisfied due to anxiety; suffers from low self-esteem and hence lacks intimacy.

The second born finds himself ignored, isolated, withdrawn and lonely. To fill the void, he turns to drugs, sexual escapades devoid of intimacy and may rely on social media for company. At school grades keep falling. He may turn to petty theft to pay for drugs and join gangs for company. At maturity he resorts to serial marriage. He is the family's black sheep.

The third child looks a stranger at home. He is lonely and unrecognised. He doubts his sexuality and is prone to same sex relationships. He turns to spirituality for meaning and uses art as hobby and career. He craves attention, fakes illness for sympathy and is obese due to over-eating. He may never marry although materially, very rich.

The last born is the family comedian. He is over protected, childish, anxious and irresponsible. He is socially very active but internally lonely, insecure and prone to mental illness. He is not spiritual and has suicidal inclinations.

Effects of dysfunctional families may explain the many cases of confused sexuality, rape, rampant corruption, drug abuse, murder and suicide flooding our nation.

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