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A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal.

All relationships like most things in life can be health or unhealthy. Both healthy and unhealthy relationships can occur in every type relationship we are a part of, i.e., romantic, familial, social, etc. One thing is certain no matter what type of relationship we are in, in order grow and flourish it must consist of love, mutual respect, and commitment to its maintenance.

Often when we are in an unhealthy relationship, it seems like we are the last to know. For many people “trapped” in an unhealthy relationship, they see no way out and resign themselves to accepting the relationship as it is. Unhealthy relationships can be created and maintained for the following reasons, parties involved in the relationship are unaware the relationship is unhealthy or have accepted the relationship for what it is. Another reason an unhealthy relationship is often maintained involves one party or multiple parties’ acceptance of the relationship.

Dysfunctions and unhealthy relationships like those that are functional and healthy endure a cycle. For those that are healthy love, mutual respect, commitment, compassion, etc. fuels the cycle allowing it to both grow and enhance. Unhealthy relationship cycles also endure a cycle of maintenance, however this cycle consists of poor communication, lack of respect, empathy, and compassion. Unhealthy relationships can wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem, decision making, emotional and physical health, and confidence.

Carlton Family

The Carlton family consists of parents Mark and Laura, and their three children, Peter (the oldest), Natasha (the middle child), and Annie (the youngest).

For the last 2 years there has been constant conflict and chaos in the Carlton home. Mark blames Laura for not being string enough to “control” the children’s negative behaviors as there appears to be constant screaming, hitting, and recent bed wetting.

Peter has been exhibiting conduct issues in school as well as in the home. Peter is 13 years old, he is in jeopardy of repeating the 7th grade because of failing test scores and conduct issues. Natasha has been extremely irritable and moody as of late, she has been crying often, screaming for what appears to be no apparent reason, and suspicious of everyone.

Natasha used to be such a happy girl, however her behavior does not appear normal when compared to other 10 year olds. Annie has been struggling for the past 8 months with bedwetting, her kindergarten teacher expressed concerns about this issues as several times during naptime Annie had wet her clothing. Annie is no longer sociable, she appears afraid of everything and everyone.

Laura feels paralyzed to help her children, she doesn’t know how to intervene in a manner that would allow her to help her children without feeling she would be sacrificing one of them. Mark’s drinking has gotten really out of control, he has been reprimanded for his poor work performance, twice, if he receives a third he will be terminated from his job.

There is a secret in this family, no one wishes to acknowledge or discuss. The family avoid facing the real issues plaguing the household. Mark and Laura fear by acknowledging their suspicions of Peter’s behavior with his sister’s, they would somehow solidify it, or allow their worst fears come true.

While both parents fear exposing the abuse and dysfunction in their household, they unconsciously fuel the cycle, both strengthening and reinforcing the dysfunction.