Emotional Wellbeing



Mandy Kloppers

Ten signs that your family is dysfunctional


1) Your family is dysfunctional if you function as “one”.

Even when behaviour is deplorable or immoral, no one rocks the boat by saying so. No independent thinking exists.

A certain amount of conditioning occurs within families. Hopefully, the majority of the conditioning is healthy, balanced and wise. When the conditioning is ‘off’, family members can adopt these odd beliefs firmly and this can cause isolation in the wider world. Dysfunctional members cling even more to their family core.

2) Few friends, insular existence.

A family is dysfunctional when they go to few social events, rarely see other people and live a life of isolation. The family status can almost be ‘cult like’ and any outsiders can be seen as threatening. A family is dysfunctional when there is little interaction with the outside world.

3) People are cut off easily and quickly – Black listed

A dysfunctional family don’t tolerate any threat to their values and ideals. People who do not tow the line are cut off quickly. They have very little tolerance nor the open-mindedness to handle views of others especially if they oppose the family’s values.

4) Constant conflict between family members and very little resolution

A history of dysfunction inevitably leads to regular conflict. Old issues are never resolved and they keep resurfacing. A family is dysfunctional when they hold grudges for years.

5) Blame culture. Scape goat

A family is dysfunctional when members are unable to look at their own behaviour and take responsibility for their contribution to the trouble. A blame culture exists – it is always someone else’s fault. If possible, one member in the family will become the scapegoat and be blamed for all the trouble. Trouble cannot occur completely in isolation but dysfunctional families won’t see this.

6) Grudges can be held for years. Issues aren’t over and done with. They fester for years

A typical characteristic in a dysfunctional family is long held grudges. There is no healthy dealing with issues as and when they occur. Instead, behaviour is passive rather than assertive so family members internalise their anger and resentment rather than talking about it openly, asking for what they want. Internalized anger and resentment is left to fester and creates bitter family members who harbour grudges way past their sell-by date.


7) Set in their ways, judgemental and negative attitudes.

Often bitter underneath as they haven’t take full advantage of life and then set about judging others and enjoying the failure of others. Sick, disturbed thinking that stifles wonder, excitement and a positive “can do” attitude to life and others.

Some families are just a bunch of miserable angry people and nothing will change that. They become so set in their ways, unable to help themselves lead a happier existence. They become accustomed to the trouble and strife of their dysfunctional family.

8) Distrustful of others, distrustful amongst themselves too – no where is safe.

Dysfunctional families have dysfunctional thinking. They lack trust in life and in others. They approach the world as if everyone is out to get them. They lack empathy and compassion for others. Toxic energy reigns.

9) Parents are authoritarian/despotic and there is very little open and free communication and conversation.

Narrow minded thinking exists.

Much of the dysfunction will be a product of history – usually parents will have had a dysfunctional upbringing themselves and will not have the enlightenment to stop the negative cycle. Their children will then be a diluted product of the historical dysfunction. It perpetuates throughout generations.

10) Very little insight and awareness of behaviour.

Each family sets up it’s own value system and when that system is distorted, many family members still stick with it. Even as adults they stick with what is familiar rather than seeking out a set of beliefs and values that are more appropriate and healthier. It can be a habit that just won’t die. A family is dysfunctional when they are not even aware of their odd beliefs and values. They become adept at laying blame elsewhere, playing the victim and wallow in denial – in this way they never have to deal with or own up to how their behaviour has contributed to the status quo.

I have come across so many dysfunctional families and the above points sum up the main similarities that I have noticed. It’s never too late to change what isn’t working and look at new ways to deal with family members and other people.

Mandy X



Photo by DaveBleasdale