Posted by: RealisticRecovery | July 23, 2009

Types of Dysfunctional Families

Types of Dysfunctional Families

Posted by fredjoiners at

There are four types of “troubled family systems”, which are breeding grounds for codependency:

  • The Alcoholic or Drug Dependent Family System
  • The Emotionally or Psychologically Disturbed Family System
  • The Physically or Sexually Abusing Family System
  • The Religious Fundamentalist or Rigidly Dogmatic Family System

Codependency expresses in these dysfunctional families through the typical strategies of

  • Minimizing acknowledges there may be a problem, but makes light of it.
  • Projection blames the problem on others, and may appoint a scapegoat to bear the family’s shame.
  • Intellectualizing tries to explain the problem away, believing that by offering a convenient excuse or explanation, the problem will be resolved.
  • Denial demands that other people and self believe there is no problem.

The patterns of codependency can emerge from any family system where the overt and covert rules close its members off from the outside world.

These family systems discourage healthy communication of issues and feelings between themselves, destroy the family members’ ability to trust themselves and to trust another in an intimate relationship, and freeze family members into unnatural roles, making constructive change difficult.

Rules that encourage the unnatural patterns of relating in these codependent family systems include:

  • Don’t talk about problems
  • Don’t express feelings openly or honestly
  • Communicate indirectly, through acting out or sulking, or via another family member
  • Have unrealistic expectations about what the Dependent will do for you
  • Don’t be selfish, think of the other person first
  • Don’t take your parents as an example, “do as I say, not as I do”
  • Don’t have fun
  • Don’t rock the boat, keep the status quo
  • Don’t talk about sex
  • Don’t challenge your parent’s religious beliefs or these family rules

Unfulfilling Relationships

The dysfunctional family dynamics engendered by these unrealistic and restrictive rules leads to unfulfilling relationships as adults. This leads to the symptomatic characteristics of codependency in adult relationship styles, marked by

  • difficulty in accurately identifying and expressing feelings
  • problems in forming and maintaining close, intimate relationships
  • higher than normal prevalence of marrying a person from another dysfunctional family or a person with active alcoholism or addiction
  • perfectionism, having unrealistic expectation of self and others, and being too hard on oneself
  • rigidity in behavior and attitudes, having an unwillingness to change
  • having a resistance to adapting to change, and fearful of taking risks
  • feeling over-identified or responsible for others’ feelings or behavior
  • having a constant need for approval or attention from others to feel good about themselves
  • awkwardness in making decisions, feel terrified of making mistakes, and may defer decision-making to others
  • feeling powerless and ineffective, like whatever they do does not make a difference
  • exaggerated feelings of shame and worthlessness, and low self-esteem
  • avoiding conflict at any price, and will often repress their own feelings and opinions to keep the peace
  • apprehension over abandonment by others
  • acting belligerently and aggressively to keep others at a distance
  • tendencies to be impatient and over-controlling
  • failure to properly take care of themselves because of their absorption in the needs and concerns of other people, and acting like martyrs, living for others instead of for oneself
  • dread of the expression of their own anger, and will do anything to avoid provoking another person.

The particular expression of these codependent traits by each individual is often a function of the type of family in which a child grows up.

Al-anon-Alateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, , Gam-anon and Codependents Anonymous all address these matters person to person. Look in your local phone book for contact numbers.



  1. need to find a.c.o.a meeting near my area totally desperate thank you mary ann

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