The Dysfunctional Family (Part 2)


Violence as primary means of control:One or both parents use the threat or application of physical violence as the primary means of control. Children may have to witness violence or may live in fear of explosive outbursts. I know a doctor in USA who does not practice Islam and drinks a lot. I tried talking to him about Islam. He told me that he hates religion because his father was very religious but used to beat his mother a lot.

Parents use children to fulfill emotional needs:One or both parents exploit the children and use them to satisfy their own needs. They think the primary purpose of children is to respond to the physical and/or emotional needs of adults (e.g., protecting a parent or cheering up one who is depressed).

Parents fail to provide financial or emotional support:One or both parents are unable to provide, or threaten to withdraw, financial or basic physical care for their children. Similarly, one or both parents fail to provide their children with adequate emotional support. A female university student told her class mates that she hated her family. She had 3 brothers and no sisters. Her father said to her:” we never wanted a daughter and I am spending so much money on your education which I expect you to pay me back in the future”.

Authoritarian control by parents:One or both parents exert a strong authoritarian control over the children. Often these families rigidly adhere to a particular belief (religious, political, financial, personal). Compliance with role expectations and with rules is expected without any flexibility.

Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.When there is constant conflict between parents the children are forced into a situation where they have to take sides. If there is dissolution of marriage the children often hate the parent at fault according to their perception.

Children may be ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.Some parents are inappropriately intrusive andover protective.While othersare distant and uninvolved.Some children experience rejection or preferential treatment.

Be restricted from full and direct communication with other family members.Be locked out of the house.

Effects of dysfunctional family:

Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children’s trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people often find it difficult to trust the behavior and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of self-worth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.

During counseling when I explain parents that their child’s problem is due to faulty parenting they almost always ask why another childin the same family is so perfect. We must realize that children raised in a dysfunctional family are all distressed with emotional pain but their response is different. The psychologist have described one of four outcomes: Hero, scapegoat, lost child and mascot.

The Hero is characteristically over-responsible and an over-achiever. The Hero allows the family to be reassured it is doing well, as it can  look to the achievements of this childas a source of pride. While the Hero may excel in school and sports or obtain well-paying employment, inwardly he or she is suffering from painful feelings of inadequacy and guilt, as nothing he or she does is good enough to heal his family’s pain. The Hero’s compulsive drive to succeed may in turn lead to stress-related illness, and compulsive over-working. The Hero’s qualities of appeasement, helpfulness and nurturing of his parents may cause others outside the family to remark upon the child’s good character, and obtains him much positive attention. But inwardly, the Hero feels isolated, unable to express his or her true feelings or to experience intimate relationship.

The Scapegoat characteristically acts out in anger and defiance, often behaving in delinquent ways, but inwardly he or she feels hurt in that the family’s attention has gone to the Hero, and he or she has been ignored. The Scapegoatperforms poorly in school, experiments with drugs, alcohol, and promiscuous sexuality, flaunting of the conventions of society, or involvement in adolescent gangs or criminal activity.It is often the delinquency of the Scapegoat that leads the entire family into treatment. The acting out behavior of the Scapegoat may bring with it substance abuse or addiction, early pregnancy, or incarceration.

The Lost Child role is characterized by shyness, solitariness, and isolation. Inwardly, he or she feels like an outsider in the family, ignored by parents and siblings, and feels lonely. The Lost Child seeks the privacy of his or her own company to be away from the family chaos, and may have a rich fantasy life, into which he or she withdraws. The Lost Child often has poor communication skills, difficulties with intimacy and in forming relationships, and may have confusion or conflicts about his or her sexual identity and functioning. These children may be seen to seek attention by getting sick, asthma, allergies, or by bed-wetting. The Lost Child often has few friendships, and commonly has difficulty finding a marriage partner. Instead, he or she may attempt to find comfort in his or her material possessions, or a pet. This pattern of escape may also lead him or her to avoid seeking professional help, and so may remain stuck in his or her social isolation.

The Mascot role is manifested by clowning and hyperactivity. The Mascot, seeks to be the center of attention in the family, often entertaining the family and making everyone feel better through his or her comedy.Inwardly, the Mascot experiences intense anxiety and fear, and may persist in immature patterns of behavior well into adulthood. Instead of dealing with problems, the Mascot may run away from them by changing the subject or clowning. The Mascot uses fun to evoke laughter in his or her circle of friends. The Mascot commonly has difficulty concentrating and focusing in a sustained way on learning, and may develop learning deficits as a result. The inability to cope with the inner fear and tension leads many Mascots to believe they are going crazy. If this inner anxiety and desperation is not addressed a Mascot may slip deeper into mental illness, become chemically dependent, or even commit suicide


Dysfunctional family is a common and serious problem in all societies as evidenced by high divorce rates and single parent households

Children have very intense needs which are both physical and emotional. We have all seen children cry in desperation when their needs are not met, and some of us can remember those feelings. The distress children can show may seem petty from an adult point of view, but for the child the distress is very real. Children are dependent on adults for their survival and need to be able to develop a secure relationship with their parents to feel that their needs will be met. Those needs cannot always be met immediately by the parents, but if a child feels that their needs will be met soon enough they will grow up with a belief that the world is basically a safe place.

In a dysfunctional family one child may be rebellious, exhibit delinquent behavior and get involved in substance abuse and even incarceration, while another child may be over responsible with exemplary behavior and be praised by everyone. Nevertheless the emotional pain is the same in both. Only the response to that pain is different. The damage is permanent and requires a healing process. Some people are able to recover by their own efforts but most will need family and social support and even professional help.

And among his signs is this: He created for you spouses from yourselves that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy.” (30-21)

The Prophet of Islam (pbuh). also stressed these meanings when he said: The best among you are those who are best to their families and I am the best of you to my family. He once exclaimed: (it is only the evil one who abuses them (women) and the honored one is he who honors them). Once a man came to the Prophet (pbuh).and asked: who is the person who is most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet(pbuh) answered your mother, your mother, your mother then your father. That is why Islam made Paradise under the feet of mothers according to one tradition of the Prophet (pbuh).

No family is perfect, however maximum effort should be made by both parents to establish peace and tranquility at home for all family members and to minimize conflicts.


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