Effects on Children in Dysfunctional Families Thesis

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¶ … Children in Dysfunctional Families

The significant depth and breadth of research and literature, the movies and television specials, the discussion on talk shows on the topic of the negative effects of dysfunctional families upon children shows that they are myriad and all certainly damaging to not only the children, but their parents, extended families, friends and communities. A dysfunctional family has the power to absolutely destroy a child's life both physically and emotionally and, as such, it can extend its problems like a cancerous growth outside the boundaries of the home. The children of dysfunctional families are of a significantly greater risk for academic, social, emotional, and mental problems, they are more likely to become abusive towards others, more likely to become self-destructive, more likely to be sexually active earlier, more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol earlier, more likely to "grow up too fast," and are at greater risk of promulgating the very same problems that their parents and family experiences with their own. The children of dysfunctional families often take on adult responsibilities earlier than their peers and are often left alone by their parents either physically or emotionally. The dysfunctional family has the potential to create lifelong negative behavioral patterns in their children, create a significant cost to the community, and perpetuate themselves in their children's adult lives.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Effects on Children in Dysfunctional Families Assignment

The dysfunctional family is defined by the presence of "any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning," (Texas Woman's University, Dysfunctional Families: Recognizing and Overcoming Their Effects, 2008, n pag). In opposition to the "healthy" family, the dysfunctional family's dynamic is, in essence, off kilter. The problems that the dysfunctional familes face tend to be chronic rather than temporary, the needs of the family members (particularly the children) are inconsistently met, and the "negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children's lives" (Texas Woman's University, n pag). Alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, significant disabling physical conditions, divorce, emotional disturbance, physical emotional and sexual abuse, extremes of emotional behavior, a lack of parental involvement or responsibility, a distancing or denial of affection, and abandonment are all contributing factors to familial dysfunction.

The healthy family, on the other hand, is defined as a unit in which the needs of each member are consistently met, where problems / difficulties are generally temporary and if any are chronic, they do not interfere with the general functioning of the family itself (Hamamci, "Dysfunctional Relationship Beliefs in Parent-Late Adolescent Relationship and Conflict Resolution Behaivors," College Student Journal, 122). Everyone receives the attention, care, love, and support they require for their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. So, what the healthy family lacks, then, is a chronic set of problems that no adequate compensation methods have been developed to combat, where at least one parent is effectively a destructive and negative influence over a significant portion of the family's lives, and that the coping methods of re-balancing the family in the wake of disturbances are not adequate to the task. The healthy family may experience conflict and significant problems, but they have successfully developed compensation methods for those problems that allow the family to continue to function despite the problems they encounter.

At the core of most dysfunctional families is at least one parent with at least one significant and uncontrolled problem that has a direct effect upon the functioning of the family. For example, if the parent is severely depressed, he or she may not be able to find gainful employment and is thus unable to provide for the family. That depression could lead to neglect of children, of self and spouse and an inability to participate in the lives of the family members - effectively denying positive parenting to their children. but, prolonged illness, mental disorders, chemical dependence, etc. all can create a significant rift within the family - overburdening other members with the extra work that the disabled family member should have been doing, and often this finds its way to the lives of the children who are expected to provide housework, meals, and childcare to the family before they are themselves adults. Cognitively, this has a significant negative impact upon the children. "Distressed individuals display more negative thoughts...and these are negatively associated with constructive responses including discussing problems, compromising, seeking help from third persons, seeking specific feedback from others, and/or attempting to change oneself or family members," (Hamamci).

Cognitive research has also shown that the children who are members of dysfunctional families have a much higher risk for experiencing physical and sexual abuse, for becoming pregnant as children, and for contracting infections and sexually transmitted diseases through un-safe behaviors including drug use and promiscuity (Hillis, Anda and Felitti). High risk sexual behavior has long been the social hallmark of the abused child - the overly and early sexualized child is significantly more likely than non-sexualized peers to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age. The Hillis, et al., study sought to determine the relationship between adverse experiences during childhood and adult diseases and health behaviors associated with the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and determined that "exposure to adverse childhood experiences was associated with significantly increased risks of major causes of death and disability in adults, including alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, smoking, poor self-related health, physical inactivity, severe obesity, ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures and liver disease," (Hillis, Anda and Felitti; Wilkins, Kendrick and Stitt).

What research excels at in this field is statistical analysis of the effects of living in a dysfunctional family. but, what it fails to do is adequately tell us exactly what it is about the dysfunctional family that causes these problems. We see from research a link between dysfunction and problems in later life, but what mental and emotional infrastructure changes are being wrought on the child that lead to these problems in the future? "The family is an integral social system, held together by the bonds of affection and caring, at the same time, family members exercise control, approval and dissent for each other's actions. As part of this interaction, every family has a structure, whether dysfunctional or functional, chaotic or rigid. This family organization helps it to achieve goals within a developmental time frame and survive or fail as a unit," (Martin and Martin). As the family is what creates the mental and emotional infrastructure within the children, a dysfunctional family by its very nature creates a dysfunctional structure within the child - hopelessly condemning that child to a future of massively higher risk for all of the above-mentioned problems and more.

At the core of the problem, then, is that the dysfunctional family actively prevents a child from fully developing within the parameters of what psychologists would refer to as "normal." Martin and Martin determined that effective adolescents are intellectually reflective persons who have developing thinking skills, they are en route to a lifetime of meaningful work...they will be good citizens, have the potential to become caring individuals who are active participants in their families and communities." The dysfunctional family, however, hobbles the child's progress toward these potentials. When a parent is behaving in an unreasonable way, the child is unable to learn proper or effective problem-solving skills that are generalizable to the rest of society. Instead, they learn coping methods that are specific to their family dynamic - and that is often contrary to social norms.

The child requires structure, nurturing, and support in order to feel secure. That feeling of security, of safety is critical to the forming of a good mental and emotional foundation. Children who have been denied this foundation, by being abandoned by a parent, abused, suffering at the hands of a disabled parent, neglected, etc. are unable to create the necessary foundation on their own and then develop their own methodologies of coping with their world, often with very negative effect. "Most children in permissive families have a poor self-image and do not develop the skills required in order to compete in today's society...adolescents in these families view their parents as disinterested, and have to make their own decisions in a very complex world," (Martin and Martin).

Significantly, dysfunctional parents have an effect upon children even before they are born. "Low birthweight, retarded growth in utero, and premature delivery account for 70% of all perinatal deaths in the United States," and these problems can be tied to family dysfunction (Abell, Baker and Clover). Mothers, in particular, who are under severe stress either internally as from depression and mental illness or addiction, or externally as from an abusive relationship or one with a person who has depression, mental illness or is an addict, do not maintain a healthy internal system for their developing children. Thus, being part of a dysfunctional family sets children up for impaired cognitive and physical development from the very beginning (Abell, Baker and Clover).

So, then what can be done about this problem? What magic pill can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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