There is a great deal of variability in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families, and in the kinds and the severity of their dysfunction. However, when patterns like the above are the norm rather than the exception, they systematically foster abuse and/or neglect. Children may:
- Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
- Experience “reality shifting” in which what is said contradicts what is actually happening (e.g., a parent may deny something happened that the child actually observed, for example, when a parent describes a disastrous holiday dinner as a “good time”).
- Be ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
- Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
- Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
- Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or conversely, receive no guidelines or structure.
- Experience rejection or preferential treatment.
- Be restricted from full and direct communication with other family members.
- Be allowed or encouraged to use drugs or alcohol.
- Be locked out of the house.
- Be slapped, hit, scratched, punched, or kicked.
Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children’s trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgments and actions, or their own senses of self-worth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities. In common with other people, abused and neglected family members often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.” The more they have to accommodate to make the situation seem normal (e.g., “No, I wasn’t beaten, I was just spanked. My father isn’t violent, it’s just his way”), the greater is their likelihood of misinterpreting themselves and developing negative self concepts (e.g., “I had it coming; I’m a rotten kid”). http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/?page_id=171
Low self-esteem is like
driving through life
with your hand-break on.
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