“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” 

Ephesians 6:4

No family is perfect. Your childhood might reveal that – or your family right now may have its challenges. For better or worse, few things shape us more than our families. While none of them is perfect, every family can take steps to grow and change. Our Women of Faith resources provides practical, biblical guidance on overcoming unhealthy family dynamics and cultivating new, healthy patterns so your family can flourish.  The family you came from may have had its problems. Your family now may have its difficulties. You can make peace with your past and move forward toward a flourishing, healthy family and future. Learn how in these Women of Faith Keys for Living resources.


Having control issues, criticism & manipulation in your family?

Today, far too many families can be described as dysfunctional. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family you’re likely to face many of the same challenges as you raise your own children: control issues, harsh criticism, manipulation...

Can you actually change the dynamic of a dysfunctional family? Yes! Well, where do you start? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, which was dealing with their own dysfunction. 1 Corinthian chapter 13, sometimes called the “love” chapter says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It doesn’t envy, it does not boast, it’s not proud, not self-seeking, not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” That means, with the foundation of God’s love, and by applying biblical truth you can actually cultivate positive relationships that will last for generations.


What Is a Dysfunctional Family? 

  • A dysfunctional family is one in which improper and immature behavior of at least one parent damages the growth of individuality and the development of healthy relational skills among family members. 
  • A dysfunctional family is one in which family members are impaired emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. 
  • A dysfunctional family is one in which all members are so emotionally and psychologically connected to one another that everyone is negatively impacted when only one family member experiences harm or encounters a problem. 

“Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.”

 (Proverbs 11:29)  


What Is a Functional Family? 

  • A functional family is one in which proper and mature behavior of two parents cultivates a healthy balance between embracing individuality and embellishing relational skills among family members. 
  • A functional family is one in which healthy emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth is cultivated among family members. 
  • A functional family is one in which individual family members cultivate the ability to face problematic situations specific to them with personal confidence in God and self and with the general support of other family members.

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.”

(Psalm 71:5)


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Characteristics of Dysfunctional Family Systems 

  • Chaos—

Drama and confusion reign with emotions ruling decision making. Reasoning and self-restraint take a backseat. 

  • Control—

Keeping members in compliance with family rules and ideology is critical. Maintaining and supporting the hierarchy is essential to family preservation. 

  • Denial—

Obvious family problems are unacknowledged, unaddressed, and unchanged. Lies are accepted as truth, and inappropriate behavior is often ignored. 

  • Inconsistency—

What was said one day is retracted the next. Expectations constantly change, and commitments are easily broken. 

  • Indifference—

Emotional support of family members is blatantly lacking unless challenged by outsiders. Children are valued for their devotion and contribution to the family system. 

  • Instability—

Emotions quickly fluctuate from happy to sad, pleased to angry. Change is constant and unforeseeable; insecurity runs rampant among family members. 

  • Shame—

Members serve as emotional punching bags for each other, with shame being the most effective way of hurting, manipulating, and obtaining compliance.

  • Unpredictability—

Keeping each other guessing is everyone’s long suit; therefore, what is allowed one day is forbidden the next day and what pleases someone today displeases them tomorrow.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. ... You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

 (Psalm 90:14; 145:16)


What Causes Dysfunction to Develop in Some Families? 

Just as there can be multiple reasons people do the things they do, there can be a multitude of reasons for a family being dysfunctional. For some families, the ... 

  • Presence of chemical addiction results in maladaptive behavior 
  • Existence of emotional, physical, or psychological disturbances damages family members 
  • Tolerance of abusive behavior within the family prevents healthy interaction
  • Adherence to a rigid, dogmatic belief system leads to bondage 
  • Unexpected death of a significant family member creates a crisis of faith that causes chaos 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

(2 Corinthians 3:17–18) 


How to Cultivate Your Family for the Future 

Forgiveness is more often than not the starting point for restoring relationships, and it is critical for cultivating emotionally and spiritually healthy families. Forgiveness does not always come easily and may need to be offered over and over. Look at what Jesus said to the apostle Peter... 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21–22)

As you endeavor to cultivate the hearts of family members ... 

  • Emphasize the uniqueness of each individual family member. (1 Corinthians 12:14–17)
  • Seek togetherness, but also encourage individuality. (1 Corinthians 12:4–7)
  • Maintain consistency in the messages you communicate. (James 3:10–13) 
  • Practice immediate but appropriate discipline. (Proverbs 13:24) 
  • Allow a generous margin for mistakes. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Encourage the appropriate expression of feelings.  (Proverbs 20:5) 
  • Promote and develop natural talents and abilities.  (Proverbs 22:6) 
  • Require family members to take responsibility for their own attitudes and actions. (Galatians 6:4–5) 
  • Treat everyone with love and respect (1 Corinthians 13:8)
  • Nurture a dependence on the Lord. (Proverbs 3:5–6) 


Key Verses to Learn

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 (John 8:31–32)


Key Passage to Read

Genesis chapter 37 

(Joseph’s Dysfunctional Family)




Be coached and equipped to boost your spiritual strength, experience real relationships, and be the life leader you are.

Want to learn more about our other 100+ topics?  Check out the Women of Faith Resources, to discover biblical hope and practical help on these topics. The Women of Faith Resources are designed to help you – and help you help others – overcome difficulties, grow in maturity, and move forward in life.

God desires to give you hope as you face life challenges, problems and difficult trials. The good news for us, God specializes in redemption and transformation. He takes that which was lost and restores it. He takes that which was dead and gives it life. He takes that which had no hope and rewrites its story. This is our God! As you pray today, ask God boldly to transform the thing inside you that you want to see changed forever!

Thank you for your interest and support in Women of Faith. We pray God will encourage, equip, and empower you with His life-changing truth.

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