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What Constitutes a Functional Family?

what is a functional family

Usually, a functional family is a family that promotes the integral development of its members. This means that each member can develop optimally in the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social realms.

A family is conformed by a web of interconnected relationships. For example, the relationship between mother and father, mother and children, father and children, among siblings, etc., and the connections between all of them. 

Since all of these relationships are interconnected, any change or conflict with one of the members of the family, or one of the relationships that make it up, can affect the whole family. There is no doubt that all families experience conflicts and changes, but the important thing is how the members respond and adapt so every member of the family can keep growing.

There is no such thing as a perfect or ideal family, but there are certain things that can help families be more functional. Different researchers and authors have suggested a series of characteristics and dynamics that make up the foundations of a functional family.

Characteristics of a Functional Family

It satisfies the basic needs of its members

Functional families are capable of satisfying the basic economic, biological, cultural, emotional, and educational needs of their members.

There is a balance between independence and a sense of belonging

This means that within the family every member has the opportunity to develop their own identity and self-realization without losing a sense of belonging and family unity. 

There are strong affective bonds between the members, but there is also freedom for everyone to develop outside of the family, establishing relationships with other people, like friends, teachers, colleagues, etc.


The rules and roles of each member are clear but flexible

Rules and roles establish the things that can or can’t be done and the responsibilities and rights of each member. These work well when they’re clear, and, in a functional family, each member knows them and agrees with them. This way, the family can avoid an overload of responsibilities for one member

However, the rules and roles should also be flexible, so when a conflict arises the family can adapt to solve it. This will foster creativity and avoid rigidity or stagnancy. This flexibility is important because families undergo constant changes, either because of the stage of development their members are in or because sometimes a crisis or challenge can arise.

Communication is clear, coherent, kind, and affectionate

Even though conflicts and disagreements will inevitably arise, this type of communication will allow the members of the family to cooperate and solve problems together. If communication is dysfunctional, and verbal messages are incongruous with the signs transmitted non-verbally, there will most likely be confusion and conflict.

The family environment and contact between members of the family is harmonious

This doesn’t mean that there are no problems or misunderstandings, but it means that any tensions that may arise are not constant or disabling. Interactions between family members are usually warm, affectionate, and even fun.

It’s important to remember that every family is different and unique, and functionality is an ongoing process of change and adaptation. Being patient and willing to cooperate is fundamental for a family to foster an environment where everyone can grow and develop successfully.

What other characteristics do you think a functional family should have? Share your ideas in the comment section.


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