Don’t Be a Dysfunctional Family

Resolve These Common Family Issues   (Pt. II)
Dr. Bill Walker  (Institute for Family Preservation, 2017)


No one wants to be part of a dysfunctional family.  A dysfunctional family is a family that does not ‘function’ in a way that meets the needs of the family members.


There are common problems related to the family as a whole that can keep your family from working the way it needs to. 


In Pt. II let’s learn about issues #6-10.



6.  Family Rituals


Family rituals are the repeated participation in certain desired activities by the members of a  family.  A more common description of these events would be ‘family traditions.’


The participation in these repeated events/traditions are what makes a family unique.  Not all families have the same rituals and not all families participate in family rituals in the same way.


What matters is that every family has some meaningful family rituals.


Rituals include the family eating dinner together, saying grace before meals, the celebration of holidays in ways unique to each family, and yearly family vacations.  Lack of rituals can result in a family that lacks a clear uniqueness and closeness.


Positive family rituals have been associated with closer family bonds, higher academic achievement in children and positive levels of marital satisfaction.



Family Checkup


1.  Does your family have a set of identifiable rituals?


2.  If not, what are steps you can take to encourage the creation of new rituals?


3.  What is your first step to making this happen>




7.  The Role of Religion in Family


What role does religion play in your family?  How important is it to you that your children be introduced to the basic concepts of your faith? 


A family’s religion is often a primary way of establishing a moral structure in children’s lives. 

Religion can gives answers to life’s most complicated issues like the purpose of life, the way to treat others and the meaning of death.


Newly married couples must answer questions like, ‘Will we attend a church?’.  If so, which denomination?’ ‘How often?’  Failure to address these questions can create a relationship area of uneasiness, unclearness and needing resolution.  When a couple’s first child is born these unaddressed issues can be greatly magnified. 


Is religion really an issue worthy of inclusion in this discussion?  Based on the family research I believe so.


“Regular attendance at religious services is linked to healthy, stable family life, strong marriages, and well-behaved children. The practice of Religion also leads to a reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse, crime, substance abuse, and addiction. In addition, religious practice leads to an increase in physical and mental health, longevity, and education attainment. Moreover, these effects are intergenerational, as grandparents and parents pass on the benefits to the next generations.”  [1]



Family Checkup


1.  Have you and your spouse discussed the role of religion in your family?


2.  If not, what is the first step to initiating this discussion?



8.  Role Definitions in the Family


Family roles refer to who is responsible for what in a family.  A family with unclear roles is like a business where none of the workers know what their job is.  Role definitions clarify for each member of the family what is expected and what is not expected of them.


What will be the responsibilities of dad and mom in the family?  What are the responsibilities of each child?  Who administers discipline to the children?  Who deals with the finances of the family? 


Clear role definition is especially important for children.  They need the security of knowing someone is going to provide them with shelter, clothing, and food.  This allows them to focus on being a child and the completion of the developmental tasks children need to successfully navigate to grow up emotionally healthy.


Lack of role definition in a family leads to confusion and neglect of the tasks and responsibilities that ensure a family functions and meets the needs of all its members.


Family Checkup


1.  Do you feel the roles are clearly defined in your family?


2.  If not, what are some things you can do to begin the discussion?



9.  Power Distribution in the Family


Somewhat related to role definition, power in a family refers to who has the right to make the decisions that affect the family members.  In other words, who is in charge?


The “right” can be assumed by a particular family member or appointed to the individual by the other family members.  Power in a family can also be shared among members.  In traditional families the husband/father may assume the role as head of the family because he is the man.  His wife may support him in that role.  In less traditional families the husband and wife share the power – operating like co-owners of a small business.


Conflict and dysfunction occur when there is disagreement in the distribution of family power.  This can lead to power struggles which can make a family dysfunctional.



Family Checkup


1.  Are you o.k. with the power distribution in your family?


2.  If not, what would you like to be different?


3.  What are the first two steps you can take to begin a conversation with your spouse (and children, if appropriate).



10.  Family Closeness


Family closeness refers to the degree of warmth, support and expression of love between family members.  Lack of family closeness is detrimental to family members and is associated with numerous physical and emotional problems.


Parents MUST make it a priority to ensure that their family is a family where all members feel supported and loved by one another.  Maintaining an emotional connection between family members is required to achieve family closeness. 


The use of empathy is a key to maintaining emotional closeness and connection.  Empathy allows family members to understand and respond to one another in ways that make them feel accepted and loved.  See our educational articles on empathy elsewhere in this resource center.



Family Checkup:  Closeness


1.  Are you satisfied with the closeness in your family?


2.  If not, what plan can you come up with to increase the closeness in your family?





While this list is not exhaustive, these are 10 of the most common issues that every family must navigate to be a functional family.