One of the most important social institutions are families, because they constitute the fundamental nucleus of the socialization and enculturation of individuals, Especially in the first years of life.
This means that psychologists, who look after the emotional and psychological well-being of people, pay special attention to the different interpersonal relationships that develop within families. Not only are the personal characteristics of individuals important: they must also lend themselves to the relationships they establish, especially if these take place in the family. This is why the question of toxic families it is so important.
Families that cause mental problems
The family is not only important for educating children and promoting their learning, but it also generates a number of habits and dynamics which are of great interest for their influence on the mental disorders they can engender in the child. one of their members. In fact, psychology carefully observes and studies the ways in which society is organized, and the family, of course, is one of the most important elements.
There are many types of families. Large families, families with only two members, structured families, unstructured, happy, apathetic, violent … it depends a lot on the personality of its members and of course on the circumstances. In addition, each family (in case there are children) has its own educational styles: there are more democratic and authoritarian, there are more open and liberal and also more closed and watertight.. The family bond that is established between parents and children is essential and will greatly influence a child’s personality, beliefs and mental health.
some dysfunctional family relationships based on overprotection, abandonment, violence or projection have been widely studied by psychologists to establish links between these modes of relationship and the emergence of certain psychological and psychiatric diseases.
The taboo of psychopathology in the family
When psychologists deal with these conflicts and issues in families, it is common for us to receive all kinds of criticism. We live in a culture where the family is a closed institution. Members of any family are very afraid that an external person will evaluate and try to change the dynamics and habits, because this is experienced by family members as an intrusion into their privacy and their most ingrained values. The family can be dysfunctional and create mental problems for its members, but it is always very difficult to do therapy without encountering reluctance and bad faces.
There are preconceptions that distort the work of the therapist: “Everything should stay in the family”, “The family will always love you”, “Whatever happens, the family should always be together”. These are phrases and ideas deeply rooted in our culture and which, although they seem to speak to us of unity and brotherhood, they hide a suspicious and suspicious look on anyone who can provide an objective point of view on these dynamics and family relationships (even with the noble intention of helping).
This conception of the family causes a lot of pain, anxiety and hopelessness in people who feel that their loved ones have not lived up to the circumstances, that they have not been by their side unconditionally and offered them support. In extreme cases, such as having suffered some form of abuse, the negative consequences on emotional well-being can be severe.
Not all families are nests of love, trust and affection. There are families in which situations of permanent stress are generated and in which one (or more) of its members causes discomfort and suffering to one or more other members. Sometimes it can be wrong done unintentionally, without malice, and at other times, there can be factors that actually lead to hatred and violence, physical or verbal. In other cases, the problem is less obvious and has more to do with the educational style used by parents or the “contagion” of insecurities or problems from one member to another.
Toxic families and their relation to the mental disorders of their members
It is not the intention of this text to point out the mistakes of the parents, however. if we consider it appropriate to try to shed light on certain cultural myths and misunderstandings which make some families a real disaster. Living together in a toxic family is absolutely devastating for each of its members, and this has direct consequences with the emergence of certain psychopathologies related to the need to fight against high doses of pressure, stress and even abuse.
We will learn a total of four ways in which toxic families contaminate one of its members, which can lead to mental and behavioral disorders.
1. Labels and roles: the Pygmalion effect and its disastrous influence on children
All parents, at some point, put a tag on our child. Phrases like “the child is very upset”, “is embarrassing” or “in a bad mood” are examples of phrases that, although adults do not realize it, they have a strong emotional impact on our children. These phrases, said once and a thousand times in the family environment, end up seriously affecting children.
Although we don’t want to give it importance, these labels affect the identity of the child, the way he sees himself and values himself. Although the child is not really embarrassed, hearing this adjective over and over in family members, whom he or she admires, sets a precedent for how he or she should behave or act, depending on the expectations generated. . This is called the self-fulfilling prophecy or the Pygmalion effect, because the role or label that adults have imposed on the child eventually becomes a reality.
This is why labeling a child is a way to contaminate his behavior, to instill in him certain essentialist ideas about the way he is or how he ceases to be. These labels, on top of that, are easy to spread and are often repeated to the point of exhaustion by teachers, family friends and neighbors, increasingly taking root in the immediate environment of the school. child, which makes the problem worse.
2. Love this killing
Many parents use a recurring maxim that they always repeat to their children: “No one will love you the way we want you”. This phrase, while it may be largely correct, often leads many people who have felt unloved in their home environment to assume that they have no right to feel bad, because all that is. family did was ‘for their own good’. this in extreme cases, this can lead to unreported abuse or mistreatment.
We need to start redefining brotherly love in a healthier way. The love of a family is obvious, but there are misunderstood loves, loves that kill. Not sharing anything with anyone is not a reason someone is created with the right to hurt, manipulate, or coerce you. Being a parent of someone has to do with sharing a genetic and biological burden, however. the emotional connection goes far beyond and the first is not an indispensable condition for the second, nor the cause. People are maturing and learning which parents have our affection and affection, and that is not something that is written in the family book.
Laying the foundations for respectful family relationships is the first step towards a better understanding of our identities and our spaces.
3. Overprotective parents
One of the most difficult tasks for parents when it comes to educating their children is maintain a balance between setting rules and behavioral habits and loving and pampering the little ones in the house. In this case, extremes are not at all desirable, and While some parents sin through neglect and neglect their children, others are overprotective and outdo them too much.
This style of parenting is not at all positive, because the child does not face social situations or risks controlled by the overprotection exerted on him by his parents, so he does not live the experiences necessary to mature and face their own challenges. In this style of learning, most children become a bit more precarious and unemployed than others. children need to explore their surroundings, of course with the support of a loving figure like the father or mother, however overprotection can interfere with their learning and self-confidence.
In order for the child to develop and explore the world around him independently, we must offer support and help to the child, but this condition should not be confused with over-control.
4. Desires and insecurities projected onto the little ones in the house
Being a parent is not only a great responsibility but also an obligation to care for and educate a human being, in all its complexity. No one is forced to have children, in our societies it is a personal choice that can depend on multiple factors, such as economic stability or the ability to find an ideal partner, but in the end it is also a decision that we took it very personal.
If we consider this, having children can be planned and therefore we must take responsibility for it. Children shouldn’t be used as a way to solve relationship problemsNor to feel respected by others, let alone a way to transfer our frustrations and unfulfilled desires to another person.
All parents want our child to be the smartest in the class and the best in the game. we must avoid anything that burdens us with the pressure of our desires. If in your youth you were a second division football player who failed to turn professional due to injury, do not force your child to become a professional footballer. Attempting to compare or pressure a child to be what you want him to be not only leads him to a situation of emotional vulnerability, but can also lower his self-esteem and hamper the free development of his personality. . Let him go his own way and decide for himself, give him your support and advice, but don’t project on him what you would have wanted him to be.
- Ackerman, N. (1970). Theory and practice of family therapy. Buenos Aires: Proteus.
- McNamee, S. and Gergen, KJ (1996) Therapy as a social construct. Barcelona: Paidós.
- Minuchin, S. (1982). Families and family therapy Buenos Aires: Gedisa.