17 Signs You Grew Up in a Dysfunctional Family

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By Darryl Henderson

Growing up in a dysfunctional family can be a difficult experience, especially if you don’t have support outside of your family. In fact, as a child, being part of this type of family can mold you in unexpected ways. Here are 17 signs you belonged to a dysfunctional family growing up.

Lack of Communication

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In a troubled household, communication is never open, with conversations often avoided or shut down. If you grew up in this setting, your emotions were likely suppressed or dismissed. It’s likely that conflict resolution was rare, leading to unresolved issues.

Lack of Boundaries

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Unlike functional families, toxic family units will not uphold any privacy. It is likely that in these environments, personal space, boundaries, and possessions were not respected. Psych Central notes that there are no clear boundaries or rules within this type of family, leading to chaos and neglect.

Role Reversal

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In toxic households, it is common for children to take on adult responsibilities, duties, and roles. Dysfunctional parents often rely heavily on children for emotional guidance without reciprocating this support. As a result, the boundaries between parent and child become extremely blurred.

Unpredictable Behavior

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You will know if you have been raised in a troubled household if you remember being subjected to mood swings and erratic actions by your parents, caregivers, or other members of the household. Toxic family dynamics mean that rules and expectations would have changed frequently, meaning that you probably felt as though you were walking on eggshells.


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Neglect is at the forefront of a fractured family. In this context, it was common for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter to be inconsistent. You may also have felt as though your emotional needs were overlooked or disregarded, which can have a lasting impact.

Substance Abuse

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Unhealthy families may have experienced substance abuse issues. Children in these types of families may have witnessed common alcohol or drug abuse. This is because substance abuse was used as a coping mechanism for whatever problems were apparent in the household.

Emotional Abuse

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Dysfunctional family members often resort to verbal insults, criticism, or manipulation. Instead of growing up in a healthy atmosphere, you may have been the subject of gaslighting tactics that were used to invalidate your feelings, as your emotional well-being was often sacrificed for control.


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According to Forbes, 70%- 80% of Americans consider their families dysfunctional. This can manifest in enmeshment, where individual identities are sacrificed for the sake of the family unit. As a result, boundaries between family members are unclear, and independence is completely condemned and discouraged.

Financial Instability

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Financial instability is one of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family. If you belonged to a turbulent household, it is possible that you felt that money was a constant source of stress. This is because an unstable familial framework meant that financial resources were mismanaged or squandered.

Inconsistent Discipline

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Capable parents will regularly discipline their children without ever crossing the boundaries of what is acceptable. This trend is completely different in fractious families, where punishments are often arbitrary or disproportionate. Here, discipline was either overly harsh or non-existent while also being inconsistent.

Emotional Distance

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Emotional openness and vulnerability are shunned in dysfunctional families, resulting in disconnection or isolation. With a lack of affection and intimacy, these family units can suffer as emotional support becomes scarce or conditional, leading to fractured or broken bonds.


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Problematic families may not deal with problems rationally and logically. In fact, members of these types of families may resort to physical violence as a means of control. This may not just be between parents and children but can also extend to violence between the parents of the household.

Dysfunctional Relationships

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The impact of being in a dysfunctional family lasts long after you leave the nest. In fact, unhealthy patterns may even be repeated in relationships outside the family. Business Insider highlights that for these individuals, it’s common to have difficulties in friendships, romantic partnerships, and work relationships 

Parental Conflict

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Constant arguing or fighting between parents was experienced by those who were raised in harmful households. This behavior can be incredibly debilitating for kids. In these situations, there is an inherent lack of cooperation or teamwork in parenting methods as children are caught in the middle of parental disputes.

Denial or Minimization

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Accountability is not prioritized or practiced in destructive households. Instead of every family member owning up to their actions, you could have witnessed family members downplaying or ignoring problems frequently. Here, issues were swept under the rug rather than addressed to maintain appearances.

Emotional Instability

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Mood swings and emotional volatility were the norm in unhealthy families, causing issues such as depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems. Psychology Today reveals that in these households, people tend to bear the burden of addiction, mental illness, and trauma, resulting in ups and downs and unpredictability.

Intergenerational Patterns

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These dysfunctional behaviors are often passed down through generations. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you could have taken note of a family history of trauma or dysfunction that influenced current dynamics. Instead of breaking the cycle of dysfunction, these families will repeat history.

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