dysfunctional family
Parents and Family Relationship

Effects Of Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Family

If Suraj Barjatya’s perfect and closely knitted family portrayal made you crave it, you are not the only one. Growing up, I always wondered, ‘why isn’t my family like those shown in movies and TV series?’ I prayed to the Almighty to bless my family with love, happiness, and laughter. The more I prayed, the more my family members fought and disgusted each other. As a kid, I often tried to make my family members love each other. After all, growing up in a dysfunctional family wounded my childhood in the worst possible way. 

Children growing up in dysfunctional families have a long-lasting negative impact on their lives. The fact, dysfunctional families can have abuses, blame games, negativity, toxicity, ignorance, and usage of drugs and alcohol. Luckily, my family members were not dependent on intoxicants, there were oceans of toxicity though.

Different families can have their own set of dysfunctionality. One family may have a scenario of intoxicant dependency, while the other may have petty fights and hue and cry. But all of these can affect a child that depends upon his family. Such children have a tough time matching pace with this imperfect world. 

Effects Of Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Family

Have you ever met people having trust issues, low self-esteem, and/or aggressive behavior? You may wonder what on the earth made them inculcate such personality and behavior. Believe it or not, a dysfunctional family can affect people’s behavior to a great extent. Some of these effects are as below.

1. Telling Lies

Have you ever seen a child covering up for their parents or elders? Children growing up in a dysfunctional family learn to shield themselves & their parent(s) from getting beaten up by telling lies. Look at the severity of the damage! If their father is an alcoholic and beats their mothers, they would try to protect the latter at any cost. They learn to tell lies as it saves them from being the victims at the hands of their family members. Unfortunately, they continue practicing dishonesty at work, in their relationships, and so on, to stay away from problems. On the contrary, they end up in the quicksand of trouble.

2. Poor Interpersonal Skills

No interpersonal skills can bloom in a family that has arguments, fights, abuses, and toxicity every day. For these children, dealing with issues meant receiving domestic violence, taunts, and verbal abuse. There are households where issues are swept under the carpet, especially if members are into something illegal. 

In that case, there is less healthy interaction among the family members. As a result, these people grow up with poor interpersonal and communication skills. Instead of talking openly about things, you may find them feeling uncomfortable and blank. 

3. Trust Issues

If you look closely at these children, they can’t trust their parents. That’s shocking but true. Because they often saw their parents and elders being violent and agitated upon hearing the truth. Children learn to trust their parents when they receive love, affection, and support from them, not when they are beaten. 

Moreover, when they see their parents fighting and loathing each other, what do you expect from them? These kids learn to look out for themselves at a very tender age. They grow up to have trust issues and have a hard time confiding in someone. Or maybe, they may start hurting themselves and/or others to validate their point of view.

4. Feeling Unimportant

The baggage of childhood that was spent in a dysfunctional family is too heavy. Even if you gain confidence in your later life, the memories can shackle your feet, at times. Since you grew up being neglected and receiving taunts and abuse, you may feel unwanted and unimportant. At times, you may find yourself isolated, despite being surrounded by people. It takes years to come out of this inferiority and the belief that you are unwanted. The effect doesn’t end here. After reaching adulthood, they start treating others the same way. They may not respect people and their individuality, because that’s what they experienced while growing up.

5. Violent And Aggressive Nature

There is no surprise in a victim becoming the abuser. Some people who grew up seeing their fathers hitting their mothers or hurling abuse at them, grow up to repeat the history. Those beaten ruthlessly during their childhood days, start to believe this is how one can be disciplined. They are likely to do the same thing with their peers and children.

This is because they learned what they saw and hence, take out their frustration for what they went through. Any form of physical abuse changes the child’s perception of life. Hitting a child or family members can leave a never-ending scar on the psychological health of a child.

I am not saying, everyone who goes through this becomes a beast. There are many people who choose to be better humans and raise their voices against it.

6. Hiding Emotions And Feelings

Children growing up in a dysfunctional family, learn how to cope with their emotions and feelings on their own. Instead of confiding in someone, they keep it to themselves and bear the pain and emotional turmoil all by themselves. They already grew up seeing the abuser creating havoc when they cried or threw tantrums. Regardless of how vulnerable they were, they had to deal with their tough time on their own.

These children eventually learn to stay out of the path of the abuser. Because if they don’t, the abuse becomes worse.

This suppression continues for the rest of the life unless the cycle is broken. 

7. Excessive Dependency On Intoxicants

Not everyone grows up to deal with their problems and emotions on their own. Some may take the help of drugs and alcohol to reduce the pain, stress, and laceration. If you go around the world, you will find many people who depend on alcohol to take the pain away. But once the hangover wears off, these people face difficulty accepting the reality because that remains the same. Many people have no clue about how to deal with what happened to them and that’s saddening.

Imagine being in prison full of drama, toxicity, negativity, pangs of trauma, and abuse. Now imagine that prison is the only family that you have. It sounds miserable and terrible.

This is what people growing up in dysfunctional families feel every single moment. Physically, you may leave that prison to never return but psychologically and mentally, you are stuck there. As a happy individual who was fortunate enough to never go through this, you may ask, ‘why didn’t you talk to someone?’ But let me tell you, these people are left alone with nowhere to go and nobody to talk to.

Though this is a serious problem, you can surely make things better for yourself. Here’s what you can do.

1. Practice Meditation And Mindfulness

Yoga and meditation can help you deal with many of your life’s problems. For someone like you, who’s been on the edge at such a tender age, accepting and moving on is painful. Yet you can do it. Though your past has been ruined, you still have a future. Seek solace in yoga, meditation, and mindfulness as these will help you find mental strength.

2. Write A Journal Or Confide In Someone

After seeing your own family doing this to you, it must be hard to trust people but not all people are bad. The world is beautiful and so are some people. Find one and if they win your trust, confide in them. Or, maybe you can write down your feelings. This way you can express what you feel and how it has been. 

There is no shame in accepting what you went through. It is the strongest thing you did while people of your age were oblivious to such a thing.

3. Seek Professional Help

A therapy or counseling session can help you understand why you went through the suffering. It can help you eliminate negativity from your life and embrace positivity. It can address the emotional turmoil you have been carrying in for these years. Talking to someone who is an expert in helping people cope with such situations is really important.

Children are naive and innocent. They look up to their family members to give them a happy and positive life ahead. Imagine giving them pain, misery, fears, and trauma. Giving these scars to your kids while you unleashed your toxic side is a sin. You snatched childhood and innocence from a kid and gave them a lifetime of insecurities. 

I can understand how it feels when someone rips apart those moments which were supposed to be full of life & happiness. All these years, I took baby steps to ensure I don’t end up becoming the one who ruins others’ childhood. Trust me, it is a lonely and painful journey and I wish no child goes through it.

If you are the one who grew up in such a dysfunctional family, stay strong as you did back then. Not everyone has a perfect and comfy childhood. You have been the strongest one and you will continue to be. Every night ends with a beautiful morning and brings sunshine. You can still make a difference by giving someone a happy, healthy, and love-filled childhood.


Also read: A Few Things Parents Need To Understand

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