The Secrets Behind Dysfunctional Families



God’s original plan for families is that parents would have a close relationship with Him so that they would naturally reflect God’s nature to their children. As children would see the nature of God in their parents, this would create a healthy, nurturing environment for all family members.

After the Fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was no longer able to reflect God to their children. Since then, no one has been raised by perfect parents, so all parents are to some degree dysfunctional.

Families are to meet the physical needs of children like food and shelter. Parents provide training and instruction in life skills. Healthy parents should also meet the emotional and relational needs of children.

A family is dysfunctional when emotional needs are not met and relationships are not affirming. Often a dysfunctional family focuses attention on an emotionally needy family member while other’s emotional needs are neglected. Children learn that their needs and emotions are not important. For whatever reason, a dysfunctional family fails to provide appropriate nurture for developing children.

Children are taught lies about themselves which can cause lifelong damage. These are the same lies that parents learned from their parents. Children accept destructive roles within the family like: role reversal where the child emotionally takes the responsibilities of the parent, and a surrogate spouse to the opposite-sex parent. Children can feel responsible for the peace in the family or be the one who is blamed for the problems of the family.

Functional families consider conflict a normal part of life but a dysfunctional family discourages open talk about obvious problems. It is closed to the outside world and attempts to keep problems hidden and therefore family members lose perspective on what is considered normal and have an inability to communicate.

When feelings and emotions are portrayed as unimportant, children are taught to stay out of touch with their feelings by intellectualizing, minimizing, denial, isolating and stuffing their feelings. Compulsive behavior is another way to avoid feelings through repetitive behavior. The compulsion to control develops as a response to a family-life out of control.

Parents are only functional when they have dealt with their own emotional baggage and can be emotionally available for their children’s emotional issues. Dysfunctional parents carry their emotional baggage and pass it on to their children. Children can feel shame for the parent’s problems. Shame is transmitted through direct statements or a parent’s attitude towards life. Family secrets, abuse, unresolved traumatic events and unmet needs all produce shame.  A shame-based identity says to hide who you are and try to work for acceptability. People try to hide their shame by acting shameless, or through rigid, religious activity and perfectionism.

1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” We are his children and He is the perfect parent we never had. God wants to undo all the damage we have accumulated in life, heal our broken hearts and extract all the lies we believe about ourselves.

God has provided a plan all throughout the New Testament of His healing and restoration for broken lives. Deliverance is the first step to remove the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy, “infesting” the wounds of the soul. After Deliverance the broken heart needs healing.


At our Wholeness Retreats, we facilitate the healing journey after deliverance. All sessions are designed to take people to another level of freedom. Whether you are stuck in your recovery or just want to get a boost to more healing, call to register for our Wholeness Retreat. Get a good start on discovering the you Father meant you to be! Please see our website page on Wholeness Retreats for more information.
Katie Mather
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