Books on dysfunctional families

I have just finished reading Adult Children: the Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John and Linda Friel. I really enjoyed it and I think I learned a lot about healthy and unhealthy ways of relating.

They talk a lot about co-dependency and addictions (as therapists, they have treated a lot of people with addictions), and they explain a lot of different types of abuse and how this teaches us bad ways of relating and affects our development and leads to co-dependency and addiction.

From the book:

Co-dependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living which emerges from our family of origin as well as our culture, producing arrested identity development, and resulting in an over-reaction to things outside of us and an under-reaction to things inside of us. Left untreated, it can deteriorate into an addiction.

Because they are focusing on ‘family-of-origin’ work they look at how people take what they learnt from their parents and replicate it in their relationships with their children. I also have their follow-up book The Adult Child’s Guide to What’s Normal. I’m looking forward to reading it too.
I also recently bought and read They Fuck You Up: How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James. I’m still not sure if I liked it. James believes that far too many mental illnesses seem to be blamed on genetics when there is plenty of proof around that how a child was treated in the very early stages is probably more to blame. I enjoyed the bits where he analyses various famous people and their relationships with their parents and/or their children (Prince Charles, Stephen Fry, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, George W Bush, Jeffrey Archer). I didn’t really enjoy it when he said gay men were gay because their mother’s emasculated them and were a stronger personality than their father (page 104). I tend to agree with James that nurture probably has far more to do with mental health problems than nature but I often found his conclusions hard to agree with – I looked up the references many times to see if he cited references for various things he claimed, which he did. But just because I don’t agree with something doesn’t mean it’s not true! If there IS evidence to back it up, then maybe I need to change what I believe. But there are a lot of psychology studies (and other studies) around with dodgy conclusions or methodologies, or using very small samples. I’d love to read a response that’s examines this book by checking out all the studies in it.

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