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Dysfunction In The Home


There is no one cause of youth violence but there seems to be a common factor in cases that shows that a family background of dysfunction and neglect contribute significantly to youth violence.


Destructive relationship patterns can get passed down from one generation to the next and some families continue to repeat the only behaviour they know.


Homes riddled with domestic violence, hostility and where parents or guardians are narcissistic, abusive, neglectful and disengaged from effective child rearing responsibilities rank high as ‘risk factors’ for children from such families to be involved in violence and anti-social behaviours.


Children learn behaviours and they are learning from the womb and that learning continues as they enter the world and the first persons of contact and their first teachers are the parents.


Their first environment is the home and their innate desire to learn could be nourished or weakened by their experiences in the home.  


It is believed that children who witness domestic violence in their homes are more likely to become violent as they might believe  that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.

The dysfunctional behaviour of parents becomes a model or example for the next generation, and the cycle can be repeated. 


The home environment is therefore very important in preventing anti-social behaviours in children that can lead to mental health issues and result in violent behaviour in youth.  Some of these mental health issues include conduct disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse problems, and anxiety disorders.

In dysfunctional families, there are a variety of patterns that can occur. Here are the most common:

  • Parents or teens abuse alcohol and/or drugs

  • One or both parents have compulsive behaviour, such as gambling or overworking, that leads to difficulties for the rest of the family

  • One or both parents threaten or actually carry out violence that may or may not involve the children

  • One or both parents treat the children as possessions and as if the children are only around for the parents' own personal needs or satisfaction


  • One parents treat the children as possessions to the point of not giving their children autonomy and exerting tight control over their lives

  • One or both parents are unable to provide or simply stop providing emotional and/or physical and financial support


Many families have times when these patterns occur, but it is when they start to become the norm that dysfunction occurs.

When dysfunctional patterns become the standard in a family, the detrimental effects on the children are significant and can be carried into their adult relationships. Some of the potentially damaging effects for children are:

  • Having to take sides in a parental conflict

  • Actions of parents not matching their words, which causes a distorted reality

  • Being rejected or being favored

  • Having rigid controls put over everything from who their friends are to how they dress

  • Having parents that are either way too involved and overly protective or parents who are uninvolved and dis-interested

  • Being ridiculed or ignored when sharing thoughts or feelings

  • Being physically abused

  • Feeling like they have to be the adult in the situation

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