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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Families

Family relationships are special. From birth, humans are connected to their families. Their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles…there are many titles for those considered to be in a family. While the term for family may have been initially created to signify who humans are biologically related to, the term has evolved quite a bit. Families can expand due to marriage and adoption, too. 

For most children, family is all they know. Their parents or guardians teach them new things and they watch them grow. As children grow older, they may start to better understand what family means. For many, it is a bond. It is a unit. For those lucky enough to have a strong and functional family, this love and care continues to grow and expand over the years. For many others, it is a tie to a life that they have grown apart from. It is dysfunctional. It is difficult. Families and their inner dynamics can be easily associated with psychology. Perhaps that’s why family therapy is one of the most popular forms of therapy. Let’s learn more. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of families.

All family homes are different. 

As children grow older and start to spend time away from home they may realize one thing pretty quickly. All families are different. Families may differ depending on who lives under the same roof at the family home. A nuclear family refers to a group consisting of a couple with or without children. A joined family is a group consisting of a couple with or without children as well as grandparents, parents, in-laws, and so on. Families can also vary depending on where they live and what the culture is like around them. This may also represent their:

  • religious choices,
  • morals
  • values
  • belief systems.

Families also vary based on their income and lifestyle. 

Families are a child’s first education.

For children, their family members are their first teachers. From the moment a child enters the world their family is responsible for providing for their needs and protecting them. As they slowly grow, they are like sponges absorbing everything around them. Family may be the most important influence in a child’s life. Their parents and other family members are meant to provide a safe and healthy pathway for positive development and growth. As these children become adults, their family values may be a clear look at who they are. They also may reflect how they ultimately parent their own children. 


Religion can influence family dynamics.

Since the beginning of time, religion has created boundaries regarding values and morals. When a family chooses a belief system based around a religion, it affects the dynamic of the family. It also affect every family member. For a family with a strong belief system, their religion decides their sexual practices and family formation. It may also decide:

  • who they are associated with
  • the clothing they wear
  • how they spend their time
  • their diet
  • what kind of school they attend
  • activities that they partake in outside of school, and more. 
  • As access to information and people from all over the place only becomes easier in our modern society, the gap between traditional and modern family dynamics may become larger. While many people still identify with a specific religious group, the “norm” may seem a lot less “norm” to the elders in a family. This can affect a family negative in both positive and negative ways. 


Many families gather together for activities.

Traditionally, families spend a lot of time together. However, spending time together doesn’t mean just sharing a living space and operating around a similar schedule. When families choose to do activities together they can strengthen their connection. This may include:

  • going to after school activities
  • attending events together
  • sharing holidays
  • attending sports games
  • walking or hiking
  • cooking meals, and more.

As for children, there are many psychological benefits that can come with family time. Family time can build confidence, create an emotional bond with parents and siblings, help with communication skills, and far more. In addition, when parents spend time with their children they may be getting to know their children as individual people, not just their children. They can develop a friendship and a bond unlike any other. This may allow them to be present and help them through any challenges as they grow. 


Families may be linked together biologically.

What makes a family? Well, for many, a family consists of love and care for one another. It may consist of holidays with all of your cousins, vacations with your grandparents, or anything else that makes you feel connected! But what links these humans to deem them as your family? That’s where biology comes into play. When people decide to procreate and add members to their family tree, they are not just passing down traditions and values, they are also passing down who they are genetically. A family grows when members decide to procreate and pass down their bloodline and genes. Parents may pass down traits and characteristics such as eye color, hair color, blood type, etc. They may also pass down health conditions. This is a big job!


Not all family members carry the same genes.

Just as genetics can connect a family, so can marriage. Legally, a marriage consists of two people being bound together. The intention is to love and care for each other in their union until death. While the feelings behind marriage may change depending on culture and religious views, it does not change the level of commitment it requires for each person.

A marriage may include children that the two people have created together. It may also include children from either person’s past relationships. These would be called step-children and one or both of the partners would be called step-parents. A marriage also connects the member from each partner’s family. This is what we call in-laws. Not all family members carry the same genes, but they are all connected in some way. Many families are also not legally bound together. This does not change their connection or value they hold in being considered a family. 

Adoption and fostering can expand a family. 

As we mentioned above, many families are tied together genetically. However, many families are not! Family is a big word and can mean many things. Fostering and adopting children can expand a family. Adoption is the legal transfer of all parenting rights and responsibilities from biological parents to the new adoptive parents. While there is no blood connection, an adoptive parent is still meant to be present for every single part of their adopted child’s life. Fostering is the chosen responsibility of caring for a child who can no longer be with their biological family. Unlike adoption, fostering is not a legal arrangement and foster parents don’t have any legal rights. The length of time that a child is fostered for can drastically vary. Many believe adoption and fostering to be one of the most selfless and beautiful ways to expand a family. 


A functional family can be a beautiful thing.

There may be many opinions to what it means to be a functional family. However, experts believe that a functional family is a family where the adults are in charge. These adults are the center of the family unit. In order to be functional they must be nurturing and provide a family structure that runs effectively and positively. 

A functional family can affect people in many ways as they begin to enter the world. A family structure is a reflection of who someone is and how they treat others. A functional family may help someone to develop positively and form healthy attachment styles. It may also help them form new relationships, start a career, and more. 

A dysfunctional family can be unhealthy.

Similar to a functional family, there may be many opinions on what it means to be a dysfunctional family. However, experts may say that a dysfunctional family is a family dynamic that can include:

  • conflict
  • misbehavior
  • poor communication
  • child neglect or abuse

A dysfunctional family greatly affects children starting from a young age.They may often feel lonely. They may also have trouble expressing their emotions and may show symptoms from depression, low self esteem, anxiety, and other disorders. A dysfunctional family can also greatly affect children as they mature into adults. Children who are victims of unhealthy family dynamics may continue to struggle with those disorders as well as constant self rejection and criticism. A family dynamic can be a massive influence on the rest of a person’s life. 


There is a branch of psychology called couple and family psychology.


Couple and family psychology is a specialty in professional psychology around the world. Its goal is to focus on the emotions, behaviors, and thoughts of individuals, couples, and families as they interact in relationships. It also focuses on how these relationships affect themselves and their outside environments. When people choose to attend couple or family therapy, a psychologist may attempt to address problems and provide possible solutions.

Many family problems stem from unhealthy dynamics and may have a family or individual family member seeking therapy. These may include:

  • parent-child conflict
  • problematic behavior
  • poor communication skills
  • sexual abuse
  • verbal abuse, etc.

They may also include clinical problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, depression, physical or sexual abuse, bipolar disorder, and much more. Seeing as family dynamics can affect every part of someone’s life, it is safe to assume that this branch of therapy is pretty common!

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