The term "Dysfunctional Family" to me means (very basically) a family that is impaired in its functioning, but still operates as a family, with the inherent love underneath all the neuroses and abnormalities.
Dysfunctional families seem to have become the norm I believe. Part of the reason for this seems to be that many adult children are educators or counselors (adult children is the term for adults who are still functioning based on some of their childhood traumatic events). These adult children have evolved at a very high level intellectually but emotionally still carry unhealed wounds from their own childhood traumas.
We should understand that dysfunctional families occur for many reasons. A family can become dysfunctional if any compulsive behavior is present, mental illness, rigid rules, religiosity and any situation where the outer circumstances seek control rather than facilitate the emergence of a strong inner sense of self, personal power, and life skill development. Emotional and verbal abuse are extremely destructive to one's sense of self. The wounds for both are difficult to "make real." Emotional abuse is less recognized, less understood, and more difficult to overcome.
Dysfunctional families are universal. Addiction treatment professionals suggest 80-95 percent of families are dysfunctional to some degree. If the norm is dysfunctional, then what attributes describe a functional family? A functional family provides children with a safe and nurturing environment, supports learning during the different developmental stages, affirms the child's worth and nurtures a sense of self confidence and autonomy.
Those of us who grew up in a dysfunctional family or who were neglected or abused in different ways are disenfranchised in our grief. Our losses in childhood have not been honored; they have been disregarded. As children from dysfunctional families, we have disowned our true self; we did so to survive.