For many people the process of growing up and dealing with loved ones has been one of ups and downs. For some the process has contained many more downs than ups. When problems such as abuse, control, manipulation, substance-abuse, and any number of problems are present, the effects on children can last long after the child becomes an adult. There are times that individuals do not even realize their family had problems until they find themselves in a new context, like college. For others the awareness of family problems is an everyday occurrence. Even families that from all appearances to “outsiders” seem to have things together, the presence of dysfunction for its members may be great. While all families experience problems, the members of families that have prolonged exposure to dysfunction are more likely to experience problems as a result of their family environment.

At times the impact of one's family dysfunction is felt most in relationships with others. In college settings like Harding’s, you are exposed to a number of relationships. Dating relationships, roommate relations, and intense friendships can all highlight the impact that certain family dysfunction has had on your life. The presence of certain family dysfunctions such as:

  • Abusive and/or Substance Abusing Parents: Unfortunately many children are raised in families that contain abusive and/or alcoholic/drug abusing members. Various forms of abuse can have a number of effects on children. Ranging from sever physical abuse, sexual abuse, to verbal abuse, all abuse can promote a measure of distrust in children who’s caretakers have betrayed them. Likewise, even the inappropriate handling of an abuse to the child when it is reported to the family can develop an environment of mistrust and secrecy in the family. It is not uncommon for abused children to take personal responsibility for the abuse. To be resentful, angry, untrusting of individuals in authority, and even untrusting in relationships themselves.
  • Absent Parents: Individuals who have parents that are workaholics, neglectful, and even single-parent families may at times promote a sense of abandonment. It is quite common for the children of absent parents to take on more adult responsibilities and miss out on many of the important aspects of childhood.
  • Domineering Parents: Children who are raised in rigid families may not be allowed to experience age appropriate responsibilities due to the controlling nature of their parents. Likewise, this type of environment might promote a spirit of “secrecy” and/or “loyalty” that must be maintained at all costs. In such an environment it is not uncommon for children to develop a lot of anger, dependence, and/or feelings of inadequacy as a result of parental control.

In addition to those mentioned above, children and adults who are raised in dysfunctional families commonly report a wide range of difficulties in a number of areas. If you feel like some of the things you are struggling with are related to the way you were brought up or your family, there are some useful ways to begin the healing process.

  • Give yourself permission to be hurt/angry about what occurred at home.
  • Take time to take care of yourself not just everyone else.
  • Make a slow effort to trust others who have shown they are trustworthy.
  • Get some professional help.

Some people believe that since they are away at college the things that happened at home will not effect them anymore. Likewise, that there is nothing that can be done about the past. While the past can’t be erased talking to someone who can provide an “outsiders” view is often very helpful to those who are struggling with family issues. Harding has trained professionals that can be a resource for you to learn more about ways to deal with family of origin issues and the impact that a family dysfunction can have on its members. In you feel like some of the things you are struggling with are a result of your family environment don’t hesitate to call the University Counseling Center at 501-279-4347.

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Counseling Center


Location: McInteer room 313