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Dealing with a Dysfunctional Extended Family

Susan M. Mumm, MA

This article is a transcript from my lecture series presented on Community Access Television (CTN) in Ann Arbor, Michigan

I’m Susan Mumm and this is Lecture # 2 in the lecture series Asking New Questions, Finding New Answers Contemporary Issues in Psychology. I am a licensed professional counselor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This lecture series is a non-profit endeavor; these tapes may be reproduced and distributed for any non-profit purpose. Tonight’s lecture is entitled “Dealing With a Dysfunctional Extended Family”

The topic of dysfunctional families is a difficult one. It gets gray and fuzzy sometimes as to where the dividing line is between normal problems that all families struggle with, and dysfunctionalism. I have tried my best to draw the line in sensible and measurable ways. I have written two lectures. The other lecture I have written about extended families is called “Dealing with Diversity in Extended Family Relationships”. It deals with the all of the stresses and tensions caused by the high level of diversity in values and lifestyles that is present in most families these days. In dysfunctional families, all these normal stressors are present, and then, superimposed upon them, are mental health problems. I hope, that between the two lectures, I have offered information that people can utilize in their unique family situation.

It would be nice is there were no such thing as dysfunctional families. However, the sad fact is, some families have mental health problems and it’s important to acknowledge the problems, and address them directly. Dysfunctional families have always been around. It’s just that in centuries past, family problems were hidden, or simply not recognized. In the past, people didn’t have much opportunity to relate outside of their extended families, so it was difficult for people to recognize that something was wrong with their family’s operating modes. It was also pretty much taboo to expose the skeletons in the closet, especially in cases of seriously dysfunctional families. Family business was kept private, so even if you recognized that something was wrong in your family, you probably were too ashamed to tell anybody.

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