Updated: Mar 23
If you have watched the American sitcom titled "The War At Home" before, you would have realized that it is about a seemingly dysfunctional family that held on together despite the never ending arguments between the family members. In reality, if a "war" really breaks out between family members, unhealthy interaction patterns will start to develop, which could have long term detrimental effects to the family relationships.
What are some of the possible consequences of such arguments among family members? Below are the 2 most common processes (known as triangulation) that could occur. For illustration purposes, let's look at a family trio, consisting of Dad, Mum a child.
The child umpire
When parents enter an argument and neither of them wants to compromise, both will then try to pressurize the child to pick a side. Either party may try to convince the child to agree with their argument by putting down the other party’s views. If the mum manages to convince the child to agree with her, psychologically the mum feels good and that she wins the “war” (i.e. 2 vs 1). However, the effect on the child is that the child believes that the father was always responsible for that conflict. After repeated cycles of Mum’s “winning”, the child then develops deep rooted negative feelings about the dad.
The child scapegoat
Sometimes when the parents respond to conflicts by avoiding, they tend to redirect any displeasure towards the child. The parents could either become critical towards the child, or simply blame the child for their conflict. Hence, the child who was never part of the issue becomes the scapegoat. Over time, the child develops aversion towards both parents for constantly being blamed. At the same time, the child grows up with very low self-esteem and poor self image. As for the parents, they simply accumulate their mutual hostility. Over time, the family simply drifts apart emotionally.
Then how do we prevent triangulation from happening? I will share more in the next post about maintaining a clear boundary between family members.