Creating a Toxic Family

That Psych Nerd

Exploring how toxic families may form.

Many people have seen what a toxic family may look like, or maybe they have experienced one themselves. Toxic families have a delicate system of moving parts that support the toxic family environment.

I have discussed the various roles within toxic families; knowing the different roles can help you understand how a toxic family works. Toxic families almost always start with the parents. The parents are the ones that set how the family will function, allowing or restricting specific behavior that promotes a toxic environment.

Sometimes even the behavior and mental health of the parents can be enough for a toxic family to develop. Everything has a starting point, a cluster of behaviors that grow and form along with us. These behaviors are so deep-rooted that we don't even notice them.


The parents are the ones that lead the family. It doesn't matter how many people are in the family, but the interaction between each person within the family matters. Each family member interacts in a certain way that is unique within the family.

Parents learn how to be parents from their parents. Toxic families can often be multigenerational, meaning this toxic environment has grown for generations. When we consider this, it's much easier to understand how these toxic behaviors form, and how they may go unrecognized.

The parents are the ones that are in charge of the family, so their control or hand in the family is essential to look at. Are the parents too strict, limiting their children's ability to express themselves? Or maybe the parents are detached, unable to be there for their children.

Regardless, the effects of the parent's behavior cascade through the family. For example, when the golden child in the family makes a mess, there is usually a cover-up. Meaning the family supports this golden child because they are the jewel for the entire family.

This golden child can be seen as the best this family offers, so they must be praised.

Family Roles

When we look at a toxic family, we can see that each person's role is crucial to the foundation of the toxic family. For example, I want to talk about the dynamic of my family and the narcissist.

The narcissist in my life was the golden child, the one that could do no wrong. It was always a losing battle if you were up against them for any reason. I also had another narcissist in the family, who was actually the trouble maker.

Both roles as the golden child and the trouble maker allowed my narcissists to get away with their behavior. The golden child was too perfect for doing any wrong. And, well, I should've known better than to associate myself with the trouble maker narcissist.

Life was dictated by the golden child and supported by the parents. Anyone else in the family was simply a burden, or they came last. There was only one spotlight, and the golden child needed that.

Dynamic That Creates the Perfect Storm

The dynamic between the relationships and the overall behavior from the parents all come together to create a toxic family.

Of course, this is just an example of how a toxic family can form. Many different personality types and behaviors within a family can cause a toxic environment. With the family trying to balance the disruption of both the golden child and the trouble maker, the scapegoat and the others live in a mess. There is nothing more uncomfortable than living in a toxic family.

But the thing is, toxic families don't just pop up overnight. Behavior grows and molds itself over time, with the family adapting to toxic family dynamics and getting through extreme rough patches in the family.



Even if you are from a toxic family, you are not your toxic family. You are more than their drama on stress. You can go on to create a family, and a life that is filled with hope, possibility, and happiness.



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MS in Psychology | Mom of three cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind


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