Toxic families are like small islands that consist of a home full of conflicts, orders and dysfunction that affect all family members.
We know that “toxicity” is a very common term today. After all, we have all heard and used expressions such as “my relationship is toxic” or “at work I have a toxic partner.”
However, we should remember that this label does not correspond to any clinical description. There is no psychological handbook that defines it, and no pathology or disease associated with the word either.
However, the popular use summarizes all the processes that fit well with the word toxicity.
Why? There are people who, because of their personality, behavior or communication style, hurt, rebel, demotivate and destroy our self-esteem.
Unfortunately, we do not often talk about what happens at home with the small, intimate social groups that we call families. After all, we often assume that the family is a place of love, comfort and support.
However, it does not always work well. The family is a very confined institution where bad things can happen.
Today we want to take a closer look at this topic and the different types of toxic families and their characteristics.
Types of toxic families
Psychologists and family dynamics experts remind us that instead of focusing on toxic families, we should talk about “toxic parents.”
Both the father and the mother have a position of power in the family. Their personality style will affect the rest of the family members, either the children or older relatives, such as the grandparents.
Also, the center of toxicity can not be traced back to just one family member.
Sometimes a bad relationship can negatively affect the entire home environment. This can create a tense atmosphere with negative emotions on the surface and a high level of anxiety.
Let’s see what kind of toxic families there are.
Manipulating and narcissistic families with low tolerance
In some families, the dysfunction is centered on a family member with a narcissistic and manipulative personality.
- It is common for this person to create situations where they can exercise control, restrict freedoms, be disrespectful and show very little tolerance.
- It is a high price to pay to live this way. Children will not feel safe or respected. Thus, they will develop low self-esteem or challenging behaviors, as a reaction to the toxic figure with negative power.
Immature parents and children who need care for them
Another type of toxic family is the one where the parents – either one or both – are very immature in every way.
Low responsibility, lack of interest, carelessness or poor self-control make them unreliable people.
In this case, it is common for children to take on “adult responsibility” very early. This is something that is not right or healthy.
Children should follow their own pace, and it is not right to force them to grow up too fast.
Parents who vent their frustrations on others
There are no psychological weapons that are worse than frustration in the search for victims. In fact, it is quite common and exhausting to see a frustrated father or mother blame their children or partner for something that is their own fault, fear or fault.
All these dynamics have an effect. There are few things that can be as exhausting for a child as being forced to fulfill their parents’ dreams or being the target of their dissatisfaction.
Causes of toxicity in families
Finding the origin of the problem in a toxic or dysfunctional family is obviously a good starting point for changing things, developing coping strategies and establishing some harmony.
However, it is not easy. The emotional cost is usually very large.
Also, changes do not happen overnight, especially if we have become accustomed to communicating in a certain way or to lacking communication altogether.
However, all efforts will contribute to a better coexistence, respect and happiness for both parents and children.
Let’s take a look at the kind of processes that form the background for toxic families:
- A possible psychological illness or addiction in a family member.
- Abuse of power and an authoritarian style.
- Absent mothers or fathers who ignore their responsibilities.
- Lack of affection, or little care.
- Possible physical or psychological abuse or mistreatment.
- A poor communication style, either due to a lack of skill and interest, or their personality.
- Incoherence or unreliability on the part of the parents.
- Low self-esteem in the father or mother.
- High expectations and needs for both the couple and the children to live up to them.
Finally, it is quite possible that some of us will identify with many of these characteristics. Therefore, we must try to do our part to create a better environment and better conditions where we can.
But if we are aware that a relationship has a negative impact on us, we must make a different kind of decision to protect our emotional balance and dignity.