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Healing From the Dysfunctional Family - Lesson 02

by Dr. Ray Self


About the Dysfunctional Family

Click Play in the video player window and follow along on the class notes below.

Dysfunction implies something is not functioning the way it was designed.

Families can fall into dysfunction because of handicaps. Common handicaps are, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental and emotional problems, depression, and anger management issues.

Handicaps can develop generationally as a result of the dysfunctional ancestry.

Nehemiah 9:2 - The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

Psalms 79:8 - Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us.

What you may notice in the above mentioned Scriptures is that there is a possible problem of generational iniquity that needed to be forgiven.

Dysfunction in the family is always connected ultimately to sin.

The number one cause of a handicap is the work of Satan not controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Dysfunction is a handicap.

What is dysfunction? According to the dictionary dysfunction is abnormal or weakened function of a social group machine or body.

For our purposes the social group we are addressing is our family.

As Christians, dysfunction could be defined as anything not operating according to God's created purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 - 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Let's start with children. All children have three primary needs.

These three areas of need are:

  1. Physical Needs
  2. The Need for Guidance
  3. The Need to be Nurtured

Any shortage in the above areas can be called dysfunction or abuse. The effects can last a lifetime. Most families work some in all areas but can be negligent in particular area. In general families do the best that they can based on their own personal experience and life programming.

Typical Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family

  • The needy or handicapped family member gets all of the attention.
  • The needy person controls the family like a puppeteer.
  • Feelings are not expressed, or only certain ones are allowed.
  • The family has hidden agendas. Denial of problems is the norm.
  • Destructive roles are permitted; such as the following roles that children will assume to cope with the shame of the family (we will cover more on this later).
    • The hero child; I am so perfect it will cover the shame of my family.
    • The scapegoat child; I will take the blame for everything.
    • The clown child; I will make it all a joke. I will always laugh and make fun in order not to have to cope.
    • The lost child; I will fade away. I will just not exist. I will fade into the woodwork.
    • The surrogate spouse – the child assumes the role of a wife or father.
  • The family fails to nurture.
  • There is a general lack of trust.
  • The family can be closed to the outside world.
  • Critical of success and successful people.
  • One member is allowed all of the attention because of constant crisis to the neglect of the other members.
  • One member of the family is handicapped because of alcoholism, drug addiction, severe depression or other behavioral issues.
  • Feelings or emotions are not allowed except maybe anger and that may only be allowed to be expressed by one or two people.
  • Shame is a way of life. It can be underlying but it is always there.
  • Children will take on the shame of the family. "There is something wrong with my family so there must be something wrong with me."
  • Constant criticism is the norm.
  • Appearance is everything. Look good on the outside no matter what.
  • Having company is discouraged (we might get discovered).
  • The focus of the family is on one member. Children may be neglected because of this.

Study Questions:

  1. In the context of this lesson, define the term dysfunction.
  2. What do you think causes a family to become dysfunctional?
  3. List and explain the three primary areas of need for children.
  4. What happens to the family when the needy or handicapped member receives an inordinate amount of attention?

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