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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Family Structures

Building Blocks

A dysfunctional family is a family unit that functions abnormally or inadequately and is, therefore, considered impaired.

When the family structure functions effectively and positively nurtures individual members it is called a functional family. When parts do not work well or are not in equilibrium, it is called a dysfunctional family. Members of dysfunctional families more readily have problems forming other relationships. Part of the reason is that individuals learn how to interact by watching members of their family and imitate behavior that is not conducive to forming healthy, equal, or functional relationships.

Two Sides of Family Interaction

Family members interact in two fashions, outward and inward. Both sides of family interaction affect the dynamics of the family and the self-image of the individual member.

The outward interaction is how members respond and overtly interact with one another. The inner interaction has more to do with each member's perception of interacting. Perceptions can carry more influence than the reality of the act or interaction. And, perceptions as we know are influenced by individual personality differences, previous experience, and self-image.

The fact that there are two sides to family interaction make family dynamics much more complex and account for family members harboring different feelings and perceptions of the same event.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters © 2001 by Rosanne Rosen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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