Functional vs. Dysfunctional Families


In many cultures around the world, the family is the cornerstone of society – and of the individual’s life.  Family means everything.

Look to the cultures that understand the importance of supporting family and you see people who are generally happier.  It is difficult to not be happy with love and laughter flowing around you.

The family structure was so instrumental in the Chinese culture, that when Buddhism was transported from India, the Chinese insisted that the philosophy change to meet the family’s needs.  Even today, in our fast-paced world, people travel thousands of miles just to be with family and friends for the Chinese New Year.  Watch this video to see how important family is to the Chinese people.

This bonding is essential for a functional family.  Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.  Connection with family members and friends makes one more connected to themselves.

“Filial duty” which is duty to one’s family members, is not stressed enough in American homes.  Rather, we want to be “independent” and go our own way.  The problem with that is we go so far on our way that we become isolated from our past and those who love us. 

Then when there are problems with life, we have no one to turn to.  No one to care enough to help.  The American family structure has crumbled to the point where children cannot wait to get out of their homes, never to return.

In a functional family, family members freely express their ideas and feelings without fear of recrimination and feel safe in this knowledge. A healthy family supports one another in good times, and troubled times, with warmth and understanding. Family members are satisfied and content, and compromise is easy.

A dysfunctional family environment is the opposite. There is coldness, fear of expressing one’s emotion, and children feel misunderstood by their parents. This distancing may not be a sign of poor parenting skills, but a lack of social learning on the part of the parent.

If individual family members can heal, the family heals. With healthy families comes a healthy society. A society where people are happy and productive, not depressed and violent.

How we can help families

    • Stop the talk and put words into action to  slow this cycle of violence our world has fallen into.
    • Begin a grassroots effort to make a conscious effort to practice kindness and compassion.
    • Implement programs that bring the family together.
    • Engage public officials to work together in finding ways to stop the violence in our communities.

The American Medical Association’s Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence state that,

“Family violence usually results from the abuse of power or the domination and victimization of a physically less powerful person by a physically more powerful person.” 

Unequal financial resources, unstable family connections , or troubling health status are situations in which the more powerful person exerts inappropriate control or intimidation over the less powerful person.

Any misuse of power, especially that which involves physical violence or psychologic intimidation, constitutes abuse.

    • A perpetrator is a person who performs or permits the actions that constitute abuse or neglect.
    • The term “batterer” refers more specifically to a perpetrator who engages in physical violence.
    • The most familiar constellation for partner violence is one in which the (current or ex-) husband or boyfriend is the perpetrator and the wife or girlfriend is the victim.
    • Men who are in homosexual relationships are often victims of partner violence.

Interpersonal violence and abuse, especially between relatives and domestic partners, are leading causes of morbidity and mortality.

Family physicians and other professionals who provide primary care health services must deal with acute presentations and chronic sequelae of this epidemic.

Many victims of abuse hesitate to seek help, while those who batter are often difficult to identify.

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