Pathological Parenting

I'm often amazed by how many people assume adoptive families are loving and ideal when so few take the time to think and worry about the many hidden family dyfunctional dynamics (and environmental influences) existing in many adoptive homes.  Given the unknown numbers of private adoptions that take place in each state, each year, the absence of standardized adoption practices AND the profound number of dysfunctional family members each family has, makes me think more people (not less) ought to be concerned about the ways in which kids from the care-system are being taken-in and raised these days.

The family-structure is where common symptoms and behavior patterns result from common experiences within that given family structure.   Throw-in a closet pedophile, a quiet prescription pill-popper, or an alcohol/drug/sex addict-in-denial and what does the foster child or adoptee get as so-called fully screened Parental Replacements?  Legalized Legacy of Family Dysfunction.  Pathological Parents, (by proxy). 

What I find most disturbing is this sense of "normalcy" so many dysfunctional family members seem to accept for themselves.  Surely others must see how role-play and family-positioning solidifies the patterns of certain behaviors seen and learned through the eyes of an innocent, developing child.  Generation after generation pathological parenting is being taught to family-members, and we're to assume all is still well?  It's bad enough poor living examples get perpetuated in natural families, but to know poor parenting example is being seen in unsupervised and superficially screened foster/adoptive families too... I find that simply cruel and criminal.

To think adoption is not flawed and does not require reformation is to ignore and deny the truth so many abused fostered/adopted adults have been put through.  I have no idea how many humans have been traded within a system littered with problem-ed parents, but I imagine the number MUST be enormous.  Care to argue the virtues of adoption?  Ask yourself the following questions:  How many adult-adoptees and aged-out foster kids are there living today?  How many of those adults have been "chosen" by private agents, and then passed/sold to people unfit to parent properly?  Anyone care to guess-timate?  Do we dare? I would also like to know how many of those abused adults think good patient parenting is easy, and how many of them would love to learn how to be better than the parents "chosen" for and given to them.

When it comes to learning how child abuse and anti-social/abusive behaviors begin, I think we need to look at the home-life many of us fostered/adopted children are experiencing.

In families where child abuse and neglect occur, certain traits may be present.

  • Parents grew up with abusive or neglectful parents
  • Parents have low self esteem
  • Parents lack inner resources
  • Parents lack knowledge
  • Parents lack confidence
  • Parents are disorganized
  • Parents are lonely or isolated
  • Parents are overwhelmed by the demands of parenting
  • Parents are hot tempered
  • Parents are impulsive
  • Parents have difficulty dealing with crises

Alice Miller,  wrote on her website page:

Humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, betrayal, sexual exploitation, derision, neglect, etc. are all forms of mistreatment, because they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are not visible right away. However, as adults, most abused children will suffer, and let others suffer, from these injuries. This dynamic of violence can deform some victims into hangmen who take revenge even on whole nations and become willing executors to dictators as unutterably appalling as Hitler and other cruel leaders. Beaten children very early on assimilate the violence they endured, which they may glorify and apply later as parents, in believing that they deserved the punishment and were beaten out of love. They don't know that the only reason for the punishments they have ( or in retrospect, had) to endure is the fact that their parents themselves endured and learned violence without being able to question it. Later, the adults, once abused children, beat their own children – without conscious intent – and often feel grateful to their parents who mistreated them when they were small and defenseless.

This is why society's ignorance remains so immovable and parents continue to produce severe pain and destructivity - in all "good will", in every generation. Most people tolerate this blindly because the origins of human violence in childhood have been and are still being ignored worldwide. Almost all small children are smacked during the first three years of life when they begin to walk and to touch objects which may not be touched. This happens at exactly the time when the human brain builds up its structure and should thus learn kindness, truthfulness, and love but never, never cruelty and lies.

Meanwhile, according to family therapist, Dr Dan Neuharth's book and website, Controlling Parents, aprox. 15 million adults in the USA were raised with unhealthy parental control and 50% of controlling parents were raised with unhealthy control, as well.  What's interesting about this information is how it correlates with monkey studies done on child abuse. 

Neuharth continues:

In a survey of adults raised with unhealthy control, percentages who said:

As children they felt...

  • Forbidden to question or disagree with their parents: 90 percent
  • Pleasing their parents was more important than being themselves: 86 percent
  • Tense or on guard when their parents were around: 96 percent
  • That it was not okay to express anger, fear or sadness: 96 percent

As adults they...

  • Feel perfectionistic, driven, or rarely satisfied: 82 percent
  • Worry or ruminate over confrontations: 96 percent
  • Are easily angered around controlling people: 91 percent
  • Feel extra-sensitive to criticism: 91 percent
  • Feel tense when they think about visiting their parents: 78 percent
  • Feel that their parents don't really know them as they really are: 91 percent
  • Feel that it has taken a long time to separate from their parents: 82 percent

In retrospect, their parents...

  • Seemed unwilling to admit it when they were wrong: 100 percent
  • Seemed unaware of the pain they caused others: 100 percent
  • Viewed the world in right-or-wrong, black-and-white terms: 96 percent
  • Encouraged connections with others outside the family: 14 percent
  • Encouraged their children to express feelings: 5 percent   [ ]

Last but not least, Neuharth mentions and describes eight styles of controlling parents, suggesting adults view their own family themes so they can recognize certain behavior patterns that can become huge pareting pit-falls:

Recognizing your parents’ styles offers the right lens that brings into focus the underlying values and themes with which you were raised. The more clearly you view your family’s themes, the more readily you can become your own person. You may find elements of one or more of these styles present in either or both of your parents:

Smothering: Terrified of feeling alone, Smothering parents emotionally engulf their children. Their overbearing presence discourages independence and cultivates a tyranny of repetition in their children’s identities, thoughts and feelings.

Depriving: Convinced they will never get enough of what they need, Depriving parents withhold attention and encouragement from their children. They love conditionally, giving affection when a child pleases them, withdrawing it when displeased.

Perfectionistic: Paranoid about flaws, Perfectionistic parents drive their children to be the best and the brightest. These parents fixate on order, prestige, power and/or perfect appearances.

Cultlike: Distressed by uncertainty, Cultlike parents have to be "in the know," and often gravitate to military, religious, social or corporate institutions or philosophies where they can feel special and certain. They raise their children according to rigid rules and roles.

Chaotic: Caught up in an internal cyclone of instability and confusion, Chaotic parents tend toward mercurial moods, radically inconsistent discipline, and bewildering communication.

Using: Determined never to lose or feel one-down, Using parents emotionally feed off their children. Hypersensitive and self-centered, Using parents see others’ gains as their loss, and consequently belittle their children.

Abusing: Perched atop a volcano of resentment, Abusing parents verbally or emotionally bully — or physically or sexually abuse — their children. When they’re enraged, Abusing parents view their children as threats and treat them accordingly.

Childlike:Feeling incapable or needy, Childlike parents offer their children little protection. Childlike parents, woefully uncomfortable with themselves, encourage their children to take care of them, thereby controlling through role-reversal.From If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Take Your Place in the World, published by HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright ©1999 Dan Neuharth, Ph.D.

[I don't know about my first-parents, but I sure are hell do know where my AP's fit within those catagories!] 

Even wikipedia, the unauthorized authority on anything and everything has something to say about Dysfunctional Families:

Children growing up in a dysfunctional family have been known to adopt one or more of five basic roles:

  • "The Good Child" – often the family hero who assumes the parental role.
  • "The Problem Child" – the family scapegoat, who is blamed for most problems in spite of being the only emotionally honest one in the family.
  • "The Caretaker" – the one who takes responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family.
  • "The Lost Child" – the inconspicuous, quiet one, whose needs are often ignored or hidden.
  • "The Mascot" – uses comedy to divert attention away from the increasingly dysfunctional family system.

They may also:

  • think only of themselves to make up the difference of their childhoods. They're still learning the balance of self-love
  • distrust others
  • have difficulty expressing emotions
  • have low self-esteem or have a poor self image
  • have difficulty forming healthy relationships with others
  • feel angry, anxious, depressed, isolated from others, or unlovable
  • perpetuate dysfunctional behaviors in their other relationships (especially their children)
  • lack the ability to be playful

If adoptive/foster parents are hurting their children at home, how is adoption and foster care services improving this tradition of child abuse?  Shouldn't parent-teaching programs be given to all sexually active people, and not just those who can afford to pay for them through adoption services?   We have sex-ed in public schools, but no one teaching kids what proper parenting skills look like. 

How are kids with poor parenting examples going to learn how not to be a better parent and NOT pass the legacy of abuse onto themselves and others?  I went to nursing school to learn how to care for babies, children and the elderly.  In that sense, I am glad my AP's forced me to go to Nursing School and not follow my dream to become a writer.  However, one should not have to attend nursing school to learn how to care for a mother and child.  Surely a country like the USA could come-up with something a wee bit better, for the sake of the children, and future generations.


An interesting find....

According to a newly released announcement made in ScienceDaily, it's believed school-based programs can help reduce the number of child abuse cases in the future.  Furthermore, Nurse-Family Partnership programs (like cited here: ) help mothers become better mothers to their children so removal is not always necessary.

Professor Jane Barlow, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Warwick's Warwick Medical School, led a press conference on the paper on Tuesday 2 December in the Council Chamber at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Key findings from the paper on interventions show that the strongest evidence about ‘what works’ comes from studies about preventing abuse before it has occurred. These show that interventions such as the Nurse Family Partnership home visiting programme, which begins in pregnancy, and is currently being trialled at 20 sites in the UK, is effective in preventing physical abuse and neglect.

The findings also suggest that the training of the existing childcare workforce in the use of the Triple P Positive Parenting Programme alongside other universal media and communication strategies may also prevent abuse and deserves further research, as do hospital based education programmes that teach new parents about the dangers of infant shaking and ways to handle persistent crying. School based educational programmes appear to have a role in improving children’s knowledge and protective behaviours although it is not yet clear whether they prevent sexual abuse.  [From:  "More Evidence Needed To Show ‘What Works’ In Prevention Of Child Abuse', ScienceDaily, Dec 3, 2008,]

I would LOVE to see parenting-classes become a reality in public schools, but I have a feeling such an initiative will get huge groans and protests from a bunch of offended parents -- parents who don't want to be told how to teach and raise their kids.

groans and protests

*Virtue practiced to be seen is not real virtue. Vice which fears to be seen is real vice.*


If they were-      then guess what?

There would be no excuses for abuse,

 NO ONE  could squirm out of personal accountablity, responsibity now could they?

You were taught --you are the adult(s) in charge, you should know better,

-off with your head...................Next?

but no one teaching kids what proper parenting skills look like.

I had no clue what a good parent looked like...  I accepted what happened to me, but deep down (below the loyalty I showed my parents by never complaining) I "felt" it was ALL wrong.    If someone, ANYONE would have been there for me as an example of what a non-dysfunctional family looked like...  but the only glimpses I saw were the once in a while that I stayed all night with such a "normal" family.
Fast-forward to now:    I made many, many mistakes with my adopted children as they were growing up; wanted to be "different" from my mother and went the opposite: thinking my children were perfect and not personally building those necessary boundaries that could have protected us all.  In my mind NO family or people or anyone could be as destructive as the family I grew up in and therefore I would just enjoy my innocent and perfect children.  When I woke up to the glaring realization that sexual abuse was running rampant in my own home, I was totally destroyed.  And in the destruction, more abuse happened.
Do I think there should be PROPER PARENTING SKILLS taught in the public schools?  YES!  I'm not one of your advocates that claim, "if it saves one child, then do it."  I detest that statement because it has caused a lot of pain and heartache for a lot of other innocent human beings.  But common-sense tells me PROPER PARENTING SKILLS for ALL is a good idea.
I really like how this forum is going.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

An amazingly well written article


My husband Andrew has been exploring your site since I joined
We just come across this article of yours

So so well written

Thank you


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