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Family Dynamics Passed Through The Generations

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Have you ever taken a close look at your family history? I’ve just gone through a family biography project with one with one of my daughters and may do another this summer.  And in a way, many of us are reminded of family history during family events and holiday gatherings.

Why am I always the last to know? He looks more like his dad every day.  How will we do Christmas now that Grandma’s gone?

You don’t have to do a big project on family history to know its impact.  And yes, for those of you saying you don’t have much to do with your family, lack of involvement counts just as much.

Here’s the key point – family dynamics can be passed down just like eye color and height.  The way you and your family acted as a unit can have a lasting effect on you and younger generations.

It’s easy to see how a boy who was always excused from responsibility could become a father who easily excuses his own children.  That kind of pattern can be difficult to break.  By the time a child is old enough to understand the real negatives to this perspective, he or she may have made many difficult mistakes along the way. If they become a parent, they may or may not have fully grasped a no-excuse kind of life.

What’s more interesting is how a pattern like this breaks.  How does a generational pattern of single teen motherhood truly change?  How does someone from an emotionally closed family learn to trust and express their feelings honestly?  What does an individual need to do to become a watershed for the next generation?

Change can be really hard – I’m not going to make it sound sweet and easy here.  If you’ve known something to be true and familiar for your whole life (even if it’s bad for you), how are you going to see with new eyes?  If people in your family have done things like this before, why is it any big deal to have change right now?

As you know, each person is still a unique individual (despite family history).  One sibling might see the family lifestyle as something they understand and feel comfortable with.  Another sibling might have a very different temperament and not fit in well with everyone else.

And even when someone understands quite well what the problems are in their family, they might not have any idea how to start making change. Or they might fear the consequences of rocking the boat.  Or they might feel like it’s just easier to go along the way they always have and live with the consequences.

Every generation has the opportunity to embrace the best of their family dynamics and hopefully become resistant to the worst of them.  Nobody’s family is perfect, and there’s nothing that can be done to change things that have happened in the past.

But you as a reader of these words right now can take a new look at your family legacy.  Look at it on purpose and ask yourself these questions.

What family dynamics and patterns have been passed and shared from generation to generation, both good ones and not so good ones?  Which ones are you keeping alive in your family today?  Are there patterns you know you should change?  Are there patterns you know you want to keep going strong?  

Creative Commons License photo credit: cuatrok77

Family Dynamics Passed Through The Generations

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2012). Family Dynamics Passed Through The Generations. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2012
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