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Dysfunctional Family

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"This is why I'm going gray at 15!"

"All happy families are like one another; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The entire premise for many Dom Coms is that the lead characters are a family of maladjusted people who generally don't get along. Usually they consist of a Jaded Washout and/or Bumbling Dad father, a mother who is either a paragon of common sense and efficiency or a repulsive harridan (or both, a la Roseanne), and two-four kids who are unhappy, dislike each other, and resent at least one of their parents. Also, the father and his mother-in-law tend to hate each other. The family is generally fairly poor, although not always — Arrested Development is about a large, rich dysfunctional family. And even they won't remain wealthy. (It was seized by the government.) Some shows add a crotchety grandparent or other relative for comic relief.

Don't get them wrong, though; for all the family arguments, the typical dysfunctional family never engages in actual abusive behavior — any that did would immediately lose all audience sympathy. Furthermore, when the family is facing a major problem from outside, they will generally pull together to face it. Dysfunctional Families may not get along, but they rarely actually loathe each other, and often receive Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments.

In American comedies, this was originally a subversion of the Leave It to Beaver/The Brady Bunch almost-too-good-to-believe family in an idyllic Suburbia, but eventually ballooned into a genre of its own. The Dysfunctional Family has been a British comedy staple since the 1950s.

Contrast with Quirky Household, where the people are merely weird, but generally happy — indeed, more happy than more conventional households. If a family member makes friends who they understandably prefer to the family, they'll probably mutter that Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't.

See also Big, Screwed-Up Family, who are more numerous, even more dysfunctional, and not (usually) Played for Laughs.

Membersnote :

Other members may include: Big Brother Bully


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tsukihime reference: The Tohno Family who, due to their non-human ancestry, were a 'cursed' gene pool of insanity, various psychosis, and sanity-decaying superhuman abilities; their family tree was full of suicides, early deaths, disappearances, and the like. They didn't necessarily get along with each other, although they co-existed rather well.
  • The premise of The Daichi's Earth's Defense Family is one of these families being recruited as a pseudo-Sentai team just before the parents formally divorce each other - and the hilarity and angst that ensues.
  • Ranma ½ has two of these; the Tendos and the Saotomes.
  • In the Josei manga With the Light, (almost) each child or parent Sachiko encounters has a dysfunctional family. One chapter had the saddest way to start: a father is stinking drunk and the son tries to run away- only to see his mother escaping asap in a taxi- leaving him alone. Another child, Eri-chan, refused to tell a teacher about Hikaru, an autistic boy, getting seriously hurt in fear that her father would hit her "just like he hits mommy".
  • In Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, this is subverted, as even though the household is its own Dysfunction Junction and they all have their individual issues, everyone has the other's back, leading to lots of heartwarming moments.
  • Goodnight Punpun has a more serious version of this trope. Mom and Dad are divorced after an incident of Domestic Abuse that turns out to be an Abuse Mistake caused by Punpun's dad punching his wife to stop her from committing murder-suicide with Punpun, Uncle is a serial cheater, and poor Punpun is raped by his aunt. They do care about each other, but most of them have too many issues to express it in a healthy manner.
  • Though certainly not a Dom Com, Neon Genesis Evangelion has a dysfunctional family consisting of reluctant Chosen One Shinji Ikari, evil father Gendo Ikari, ambitious mastermind mother Yui Ikari, Yui's little clones Rei Ayanami I, II, and III, and the Humongous Mecha that has Yui's soul inside. There's also Shinji's Parental Substitute, Misato Katsuragi, and Misato's other fostered child, Asuka Langley Soryu.
  • My Hero Academia: Katsuki Bakugou's family consists of him, a mother that's just as fierce as him and a relatively mellow father. Katsuki and his mom are always at each other's throats, which embarasses the dad. In any case, Katsuki's parents love him, but acknowledge his problematic, confrontational attitude.

    Comic Books 
  • The Fantastic Four of Marvel Comics fame were designed to be a rather dysfunctional and constantly bickering, but ultimately tight-knit and loving family unit, which is part of what made the comic so popular and part of what put Marvel Comics on the map; the fact that each member has superpowers only adds to the tensions and clashes between them. Although only Susan and Johnny were initially directly related to each other (sister and brother), Susan and Reed later married and started their own family.
    • Reed and Ben are the type of best friends that are so close they each consider the other their brother, blood relations be damned, making the Four all in-laws. Which explains a lot about all their conflicts, actually...
    • A running joke about their dynamics is the fact that their teamwork is so phenomenal and their Power of Friendship so strong in the face of danger that it has become legendary, yet they can barely function without constantly screaming at each other or stewing in bottled fury over personal conflicts whenever things are quiet.
  • The Bat-family has become rather dysfunctional. First you have Batman, an absentee father. His jerkass moments far outweigh his nice moments regarding his family, since he works alone. This messes up the family pretty badly. There's also Jason Todd, who holds a grudge against Bats for not killing his murderer, The Joker, and has a one-sided rivalry with Nightwing, akin to a little brother hating his Aloof Big Brother and is a Big Brother Bully who regularly assaults his "replacement" Tim Drake. Bruce's only daughter Cass manages to avoid most of the family drama as the boys aren't foolish enough to pick a fight with her but she did frame Tim for her own murder once when Brainwashed and Crazy. Finally, there's Damian Wayne, who desperately seeks Bats' approval to the point where he assaults his brothers and tries to kill Tim, and who Bats initially refused to acknowledge as his son because of how he was conceived. The only member of the family he gets along with other than Bats himself is Nightwing, who was his Parental Substitute for quite some time. It's quite amazing Nightwing is so well adjusted, seeing the family he comes from.
  • Garth Ennis really seems to like these. What with the religious loonies, the cannibals and the Texans, the closest thing Preacher had to a normal loving family was a bunch of swamp-dwelling hillbillies were the parents were brother and sister and the kids only had one eye. Billy the Butcher's father drank, cheated on his wife at every opportunity and sometimes beat her. And then there's Martin Soap, who ends up (unknowingly) sleeping with his own mother.

    Fan Works 
  • A Darker Path: As Cherie starts to heal and move past her abusive upbringing, she lets Taylor know snippets of what it was like in Heartbreaker's household. There were the little things, like constant arguments between the children, bitter competition for Heartbreaker's favour amongst his harem, and sharp criticism for everything, never praise. Then the larger things, like Cherie being rented out to Heartbreaker's friends for the night. Plus, of course, Heartbreaker using his power to load all sorts of destructive antisocial impulses into everyone's heads. She isn't sure what to think at first when she sees the very different dynamic between Taylor and Danny, but quickly becomes attached to a home that actually shows affection and has reasonable standards of behaviour.
    Cherie: I thought I'd beaten him. When I ran, when I got away, I thought I was free of his influence. But I'd just been living with it for so long that it was part of me.
  • Alicorn: The Royal Family of Equestria is a mess. Celestia is wracked by guilt over her failures as a parent and desperately wants to reconnect with her daughter, Rainbow Dash is deeply resentful of her mother and wants nothing to do with her, and Luna is caught between them, trying her best to be there for both without making anything worse. Twilight Sparkle being more of a daughter to Celestia than Rainbow complicates things further.
  • Whereas the Loud family in The Loud House are typically depicted as a Quirky Household, A Second Chance has them teeter much farther towards this trope. The story itself drops all pretenses and shows exactly how rampant dysfunctionality within the Loud family, the sisters’ selfish, entitled, and inconsiderate behavior, and the parents' lax attitudes towards disciplining their children and asserting their authority is slowly but steadily destroying the family. And unlike many other fics, Lincoln isn’t the one who arbitrarily suffers the brunt of the dysfunctionality, with the sisters treating each other just as badly (if not more so), and logically, the family members who are affected the most by the dysfunctionality are Lynn Sr. and Rita, who have been burdened with the thankless job of taking care of 10 misbehaved and ungrateful children and their lot in life is slowly driving them to the brink.
  • Book 5: Legends: If your Great-Aunt is Azula it probably counts, though most of the royal family are unaware of Temuji’s relation until later in the story.
  • Christian Potter Chandler: Barb is a manipulative bitch, Chris is... well, Chris, and Bob himself is a cynical old bastard that wishes at least one of the three would die.
  • Custody Battle, a My Hero Academia fanfiction, explores the dysfunctional family dynamics and poor communication that led to the feud between All for One and his younger brother.
  • In Forgiveness is the Attribute of the Strong, a My Hero Academia fanfiction, All for One is Izuku Midoriya's father. He reacts to this reveal by kidnapping Izuku and stuffing him into a bank vault, which ought to win an award for dysfunctional parenting.
  • Unbreakable Red Silken Thread: Nearly every character has issues with their parents in this story.
    • Cody's parents weren't around for most of his life due to their high-profile careers, but did try to make time for him and were there when he needed them most.
    • Heather's parents had a relationship built around blackmail and bitter contempt, which resulted in the Queen Bee having little to no nice things to say about either of them.
    • Gwen's mother being unable to accept Duncan resulted in a falling out between them, which culminated in Gwen being kicked out of her home.
    • Sammy's parents were either unable or unwilling to help her against Amy.
    • The only main character that doesn't have parental issues in the same way is Jasmine, since her family is very loving. However, the uncertainty of how they would react to knowing that their daughter is a lesbian with a girlfriend has caused some issues for her.
    • Also, on the supporting character end, there's Cameron, whose mother was the only friend he had for many years.
  • In SlifofinaDragon’s Sengoku Basara fanfics, we’ve got the Date-Sanadas and the Toyotomis.

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco: On one hand, the Riveras are tightly knit, and genuinely love and care for one another. However, their family isn't perfect. For generations, they have collectively upheld an irrational ban against music, to the point where they can't and won't let Miguel follow his dream of being a musician, much to the boy's detriment.
  • Encanto: Played with by the Madrigals. It seems the family starts out as supportive and unrestricted beyond Alma's desire to use their gifts to give back to the community but over time becomes dysfunctional as Alma's desire to preserve the miracle intensifies. The first marriages (Pepa/Felix) and (Julieta/Agustin) appear to have been unguided. As grandchildren enter the household, Alma continues to guide the family toward being of service to the community. When Mirabel fails to get a gift, Alma begins to quietly fear that they've failed to be worthy of the miracle and increases the pressure to give back. Bruno, at this point, is hiding behind the walls and working to repair the cracks that have started to appear. By the time Antonio gets his gift, Alma has become aware of the cracks in the Casita and becomes even more focused on keeping the miracle alive. She takes steps to arrange the marriage of Isabela and Mariano (regardless of Isabela's feelings) and becomes more critical of Mirabel's actions that she feels jeopardizes the miracle. Although Mirabel reconciles with Isabela and begins to strengthen the candle flame, Alma is so distraught at how changed Isabela has become that she openly accuses Mirabel and Bruno of hurting the family. Mirabel then tells her grandmother that Alma is the one truly hurting the family. This becomes the final straw that causes the miracle to collapse and Alma realizes that Mirabel was right, so she begins the process of reconciling with Mirabel and this leads to true healing.
  • In The Incredibles, the Parr family starts off like this, as a Super Family Team forced to live an average life under a Super Registration Act. Violet's angst about not being normal, Dash's frustration at being forced to pretend to be, the arguments between siblings and parents at the dinner table and Helen butting heads with Bob over his late-night vigilante antics all contribute. Thankfully, the events of the movie contribute to bring them all closer by the end.
  • The titular Mitchell family in The Mitchells vs. the Machines may love each other but they definitely still count as this trope, especially when it comes to the strained relationship between Katie and her father Rick.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Setons in Holiday. Linda has a warm relationship with both her siblings, but they don't much care for each other. Julia's the only one who gets along with her dad, whom Ned, and Linda both resent for trying to run their lives. Their mother can't have been terribly happy, either.
    Ned: You see, Father wanted a large family so Mother promptly had Linda, but Linda was a girl so Mother promptly had Julia, but Julia was a girl and the whole thing seemed hopeless. Then, the following year, Mother had me. It was a boy and the fair name of Seton would flourish. Drink to Mother, Johnny. She tried to be a Seton for a while, then gave up and died.
  • Kapoor & Sons: The Kapoors are comprised of an ailing grandfather, a bickering middle-aged couple, and two estranged grandsons.
  • The female side of the Bullock's family in My Man Godfrey is made up of unnerving Rich Bitches.
  • The Squid and the Whale: The Berkmans are all screwed up in some way. The parents are self-obsessed, arrogant, and unfaithful toward one another, leading to their divorce. The children consist of a judgmental, narcissistic teenager and an alcoholic, sex-crazed prepubescent.
  • To some degree in Take Shelter. The protagonist's mother is in a mental hospital, his brother is estranged from him and his wife is about to leave him.
  • The Conlons of the 2011 film Warrior have shades of this. However, Brendan's family is amazingly functional.
  • Wes Anderson loves this trope in general. The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic has Dysfunctional True Companions, and there are familial issues to be worked out in both The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • Most members of the Grape family in What's Eating Gilbert Grape are pretty screwed up. Mr. Grape killed himself some time ago, and Bonnie Grape, his wife, has taken to Post-Stress Overeating to deal with the grief, becoming morbidly obese in the process. With exception of Janice and Larry, who have left the family house and are implied to be better off, most of their children aren't faring well either. Arnie is good at heart, but he often gets into reckless mischief, and due to his developmental disability, he cannot grasp why some of things he's doing are illegal and dangerous or learn from his mistakes. Gilbert and Amy taken over as the family's primary caregivers in Bonnie's stead, with all the stress that entails. Gilbert also feels like he's wasting his life away taking care of others in a dying small town. Ellen, like Gilbert and Amy, is relatively well-adjusted, but she's still too immature and impatient to take care of Arnie and is rather bratty.
  • In What We Did on Our Holiday the dysfunction, previously lurking with divorcing parents, a self-obsessed uncle, an aunt in the midst of a breakdown and world weary kids, really becomes noticeable when the children decide to give their granddad a Viking Funeral after he dies on the beach, and all the adults are too busy arguing for the children to be able to tell them he has died.

  • In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, Zorba explains Bridget's silence by this:
    "The Hounds are like brothers and sisters, but there is a certain amount of sibling rivalry."
  • The Butcher Boy, Francie's family. His mother is frequently abused both verbally and physically by her husband, a bitter alcoholic, and often considers committing suicide. Of course, Francie is oblivious to this and claims that his mother is "in the garage".
  • In The Spirit Thief, it eventually turns out that not only are Banage, a bleeding-heart extremist with the stubbornness of a mule and a head thicker than some castle walls, and Sara, a psychopath with penchant for experimenting on sentient spirits, married, but their family includes Eli, a master thief with Complexity Addiction.
  • The Amatsu family in My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister. Prior to the start of the series, Satori's father Taizou and mother Taori divorced due to frequent arguments. Taizou then married someone else, who brought the titular vampire and zombie into the family. However, Satori mostly gets along with his stepsisters—it's their parents/step-parents who are dysfunctional. It turns out that the reason Taizou and Taori divorced was because the former was a member of the Bright Cross (a Creature Hunter Organisation that targets Archenemies) while the latter was a pro-Archenemy advocate. But Taori wasn't aware that Taizou was actually part of the Bright Cross's moderate faction, trying to stop the organisation's persection of Archenemies. On top of that, Taizou's second wife (the siblings' stepmother) is an Archenemy, the demon lord Lilith. Taori absolutely hates Lilith, seeing her as an usurper, and wants to kill her at all costs.
  • The Heffley family in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Mom Susan is a Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher who spoils her youngest son specifically, Frank is a cranky Bumbling Dad, and their three sons are (from oldest to youngest) a really bad heavy metal musician and Big Brother Bully, a self-proclaimed "wimpy kid", and a Spoiled Brat who throws tantrums over the smallest things.
  • The Wind Eye: Bertrand is a Control Freak and his second wife Madeleine is a fiery-tempered free spirit, so they constantly argue. Madeleine's son Mike is a rebellious teenager. Bertrand's older daughter Beth, along with her own insecurities, thinks Madeleine is an attention-seeker (and Madeleine in turn mocks Beth's Christianity). Beth's little sister Sally has a hand crippled by burn scars for which Bertrand constantly blames himself. Beth and Mike, at least, get on well together.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 7th Heaven
    • The parents' actions sometimes put other people('s lives) in danger - Eric insisting on detoxing his alcoholic sister at his house instead of professional detox, even knowing the potential life-threatening dangers; Annie refusing a medically necessary Caesarean section during the twins' birth - and they are completely blind to this and really think they're always helping people.
    • The relationship between Matt and Mary had subtle incestuous undertones - or not so subtle in the pilot episode, when Mary asked her brother to give her a French kiss and his going for her mouth was only interrupted because their father walked in (who didn't really say/think anything of the situation...)
    • Mary's character completely changes in season 4/5, (possibly brought on by the writers/producers and the actress not getting along). Although she shows academic and athletic excellence in the first seasons and is the only family member who seems to have a firm head on her shoulders, around the fourth season she starts getting into trouble. This includes an arrest for vandalism, underage drinking / drinking while driving, and doing marijuana. The parents' reaction is to put her on a bus (or in this case, plane), after which point she becomes the butt of the family.
    • The twins' always repeating each other / not speaking right was treated as being cute, but at the level they had this, they actually seemed to have a developmental disorder.
  • All in the Family: Probably the template for television depictions, and an almost deliberate subversion of all previous Dom Com shows. But for all the bickering between Archie and the Meathead, Archie calling his wife Dingbat and belittling his Little Goil, he was also intensely loyal to his family and would stick up for them when the chips fell, and in the end it was Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other.
  • Malcolm in the Middle provides the page image, although the level is more comparable to Big, Screwed-Up Family, unsurprisingly due to the creators wanting to make the worst Dysfunctional Family possible.
  • Married... with Children: The show was meant as a subversion of the clean-cut Dom Com shows of the early '80s about loving, wholesome, upper middle-class families, instead featuring a lower-class family who seem to constantly be at each others' throats. This show and Roseanne are arguably the Trope Codifiers of the Dysfunctional Family sitcom, as they started the trend of Dom Coms featuring dysfunctional families. The Bundys are a family of maladjusted people who generally don't get along; Al is a Jaded Washout and a Bumbling Dad, Peg does nothing all day but sit on the couch and eat bonbons, their kids are unhappy (sometimes) and dislike each other (almost always), and the family is generally fairly poor. It is safe to say the Bundys' household income is divided as 99-1 with Peg getting the upper percentage while Bud and Kelly combined get the lower one. That leaves Al with nothing. The kids are divided on which parent is the Lesser of Two Evils, sometimes going with mom because Al can be a bit of a Control Freak at times especially if he demands family time, and the other times with Al himself since Peg is a lazy, negligent mother who won't feed them at all. The viewer usually only sees the kids warming up to Al, with Peg out of the picture.
  • Reversed in The Addams Family and The Munsters, both families are wildly dysfunctional in the classical sense, but treat each other with respect and love. That it's expressed via poisoning, stabbing, and other grievous and macabre means is just funny.
  • The Russos in Wizards of Waverly Place. See Family Game Night episode and you'll assist at an extreme case of funny dysfunctional family. Plus, the kids have to battle each other when they reach maturity.
    • Harper's family has been shown to be pretty dysfunctional too, but it's Played for Laughs.
  • Eastenders and Coronation Street - if there's a family these days on either of those two shows which is actually functional?
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun the aliens resemble this. In one episode, they use it as a cover for their odd behavior when they become the subject of a documentary on dysfunctional families.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond, although it focuses more on the adults than on the kids. Actually, if you think of Frank and Marie as the "parents" and their children and their girlfriends/wives as the "kids", you have two generations of this represented.
  • Family Matters: Averted, but in the 1993 episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad House" saw Eddie Winslow (the teenage son of the main protagonists) claim he was a product of one after he pulled a prank at school and was threatened with suspension from the basketball team. The teacher actually falls for Eddie's story and, on Urkel's suggestion — the description of the problem is deliberately written in such a way that the Winslows are not identified as the dysfunctional family — the teacher goes to investigate and confront his parents. Indeed, at first, the situation seems bad as the house was in total disarray; Harriet had become so fed up with the family not wanting to do their fair share of the chores around the house that she went "on strike." But when the teacher overhears Carl complaining to Harriet that he couldn't find his old clothes (so he could go out on a drug bust) and wording his complaint poorly ("You know I like to wear my old plaid shirt when I go out to buy drugs!"), she bursts in to confront Carl and Harriet demand why Eddie is suffering from a bad family. Carl immediately clears up the situation, then takes Eddie aside and tells him both to man up and facing the consequences of his misbehavior at school and that he sees many abusive family situations every day and that dysfunction in families is nothing to joke about.
  • The Cylons. But given the screwed up process by which they are created, they can't help but be dysfunctional (and a bit psychotic).
  • The George Lopez Show:
    • George's dad left him, his mom's a bitter drunk, his daughter gets bullied an extreme amount and always is getting in trouble with boys, his son is get the picture.
    • The Palmero family isn't clean either. Angie's mom cheated on Vic after years of marriage. Vic tongue-wrestled with Benny, and then tried to enter into a relationship with a woman in her twenties. Angie's sister has been very hopeless in finding a relationship, and was desperate enough to kiss George. Angie's brother grew up to be manipulative con artist. Her niece Veronica is completely spoiled. And it's implied that the reason Veronica's mother Claudia made George the trustee to Veronica's inheritance was because she found the rest of the family to be poor role models.
  • The Osbournes. It's not completely off the mark to describe their Reality TV depiction as a live-action Simpsons for old metallers.
  • The Monk family in the Crime Dramedy series Monk is heavily implied to be dysfunctional. The parents raised their kids, Adrian Monk and Ambrose Monk, in a very strict fashion, which evidentally contributed to their quirks (such as Adrian Monk's various phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as Ambrose Monk's Agoraphobia), their father, Jack Monk, eventually and inexplicably left the family in 1972 while going to get Chinese Food, which also resulted in Ambrose and their mother becoming cataconic. Their Christmases were also heavily implied to be horrible experiences for Monk. Jack Monk's other family, Jack Jr. was also proven to be no different. Although Jack Monk mentioned that Jack Jr. was a heart surgeon in Baltimore, it was later revealed in the same episode that Jack Monk lied about that out of shame, and that Jack Jr. was actually a putz (actually, not even a putz, but a person who dreams of one day becoming a putz), who lives in his basement, smokes Marijuana, and steals from Jack's wallet, and also had a criminal record of selling stolen cars and intends to move to Paraguay.
  • On the kids' sci-fi show Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left the main family consists of a gambling-addicted father, a scatterbrained mother, a dreamy Cloud Cuckoolander older sister, and a child genius younger brother. The family relies on its middle child, ten-year-old X, to run their daily lives whilst adapting to Earth culture and keeping them safe from the wrath of the Zyrgonian Government. The strain of running her family actually makes X physically ill.
  • The Crane family from Frasier is a mild version (seeing as they are as close-knit as they are combative), with the "children" starting as adults in their late 30s. Their dysfunction is exacerbated at the beginning by the fact that the family's late matriarch Hester Crane was the lynchpin that held her sons and her husband together, and Frasier and Niles' Sibling Team dynamic had been put on hold during Frasier's decade-long absence. One of the show's underlying story arcs, especially in the first couple of seasons, involves Frasier and Niles rebuilding a close relationship with their father in the absence of their mother to facilitate things
  • The Paolo Family, from The Amazing Race Family Edition, spent their time on the race bickering and yelling.
  • The Borgia family consists of patriarch Rodrigo, who is Pope Alexander VI; his former mistress and mother of his children, Vanozza; his current mistress Giulia; his son Cesare, The Sociopath, a cardinal who dreams of becoming a soldier; his incompetent younger son, Juan, who despises Cesare and vice versa; and daughter Lucrezia, a Fille Fatale who shares an Incest Subtext relationship with Cesare. Oh, and there's Gioffre. But nobody cares about him.
  • Life of Riley: The Rileys (and in another way, the Weavers) have a complicated set of relationships. Maddy's family consists of herself, a husband, an ex, a son from her ex, a daughter from her husband, two stepchildren, a mother and eventually a stepfather. Conflicts, you bet.
  • Sherlock: Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes had a sibling rivalry which affected the entire family. Their younger (and secret) sister Eurus didn't help matters either.
  • Friends has its six protagonists hailing from five such families. The Gellers are almost normal, but the result was still Control Freak Monica and incredibly awkward Ross. The Greens are two bickering parents who raised three Spoiled Brats (though Rachel managed to evolve out of this exactly by running away). The Tribbianis are Big Eater Hot-Blooded Italians leading to six women and Casanova Ditz Joey. The Buffays have a Disappeared Dad, a mom who killed herself, and bickering and not very bright twins Phoebe and Ursula (and to make things even weirder, there's Phoebe's half-brother who married his much older teacher). And finally, the Bings can be summed up by this exchange:
    Chandler: The Bings have horrible marriages! They yell. They fight. And they use the pool boy as a pawn in their sexual games!
    Ross: Chandler, have you ever put on a black cocktail dress and asked me up to your hotel room?
    Chandler: No.
    Ross: Then you are neither of your parents!
  • Schitt's Creek: The very premise of the show is that the dysfunctional, decadent and selfish Rose family must come together after becoming destitute and forced to live in a rural town. All the Roses eventually reveal Hidden Depths and they become a loving, if snarky, family as the series progresses, but just a few of their early dysfunctions include:
    • Johnny is a terrible gift giver, in large part because he hardly knew his children and is bad at reading social cues.
    • Moira is an alcoholic, pill-popping Drama Queen who doesn't even know her daughter's middle name when the series begins and much prefers her son's company.
    • David is a snooty, Neat Freak, lonely, pansexual wannabe hipster who has never been in a real relationship despite many hookups of both genders, and he has no real friends.
    • Alexis has seen doctors about her inability to feel anything, and she's been so reckless that she's been kidnapped more than once but she's resourceful enough to have escaped each time.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021):
    • The Cauthons, and not played for laughs. Natti is a drunkard, Abell sleeps around and has no horses despite calling himself a horse merchant. The twin daughters are neglected, and Mat has been gambling and stealing to take care of them.
    • Tam al'Thor laughingly mentions that his late wife Kari had similar drinking problems.
  • Hanna:
    • Though not full-on dysfunctional, Marissa's home situation in Season 1 is strained because her boyfriend Oliver's young son resents her presence in the household and Oliver is uncomfortable with the secrecy surrounding her job. Later it turns out she'd estranged from her birth family, having had an abusive father who she has not seen for twenty two years, and a sister she also wasn't in contact with for many years.
    • Kat Gelder has some serious Daddy Issues arising out of her father's intelligence-community job, and her relationship with her mother is even worse.
  • Maid: Alex's mother is mentally unstable and goes through a long string of boyfriends while her father is a recovered alcoholic (who also shows surprisingly little sympathy for his own daughter's plight and instead feels bad for her abusive ex given they both dealt with alcoholism; even refusing to back up Alex's rightful claims of abuse that he witnessed during her custody case-this may be because he was abusive as well). While Alex loves her parents, even trying to take her mom with her to Montana, she eventually decides that leaving them behind is for the best.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): The Hargreeves brothers (and sister) have clearly became this by the time they reunite at their father's funeral. Problems with authority, drug addiction, abuse of superpowers, gender dysphoria; all combine to the point that they cause the same apocalypse they were meant to stop.
  • Flowers (2016): The main group and setting of the show is a dysfunctional family who all have many different issues, and Shun, their Japanese guest who also has some himself. Most of the drama is drawn from the conflicts they have with each other.
  • Parodied in the Saturday Night Live skit for the "Dysfunctional Family Christmas" album, a collection of holiday songs for families who hate each other. Featuring such classic hits as "Let's Pretend We Like Each Other (This Christmas)" (about group denial at family gatherings), "The Almost Perfect Christmas" (in which Christmas is ruined as soon as a guy yells at his mom), "Ballad of the Co-Dependent" (a man singing about his wife's drinking problem) and capping off with the "Carol of Intimacy":
    Dana Carvey (singing to the tune of Carol of the Bells): Leave me alone, please go away, I'm doing fine, just get away. Leave me alone, please go away, I'm doing fine, just get away.


  • Kimberly Akimbo (2021): Protagonist Kimberly (who has a genetic disease that ages her rapidly and will likely kill her in her late teens) has an alcoholic father, a neurotic and hypochondriac pregnant mother, and an unrepentant scammer of an aunt.
  • Next to Normal: The daughter is nearly cracking under overwhelming perfectionism, the husband is expertly codependent, and the mother is "Bi-polar with delusional episodes", which includes suffering hallucinations for sixteen years — because the son is dead.
    "So my son's a little shit, my husband's boring, and my daughter, though a genius, is a freak."
  • Joe Pitt, his wife Harper, his mother Hannah, and his absent father in Angels in America bring a couple more complexes to the already insane mix.
  • Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812: Andrey's family is introduced as "totally messed up" in the prologue, and it's completely true. Bolkonsky is senile, cruel, and abusive towards Mary, who in turn is bitter, lonely, and loves and loathes her father simeltaneously. Andrey's by far the most normal person in the family, and he's The Ghost for most of the show.

    Video Games 
  • Blazblue has Makoto's Joke Ending. Makoto runs a dramatic re-enactment of her family life with randomized casting. It turns out that Terumi has a talent for turning any family into this and when his favourite victims, like Ragna are also casted, things quicky get out of control, not helped by the other actors not being able to stay in character, here's the cast:
    Makoto's Father: Noel.
    Makoto's Mother: Hazama.
    Makoto's Younger Sister, Mikoto: Bang.
    Makoto's Older Brother, Mukoto: Valkenhayn.
    Makoto's Younger Twin Siblings, Mekoto and Mokoto: Carl and Ada.
    Makoto's Youngest Baby Sibling: Ragna.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has the Townleys/de Santas, which became quite dysfunctional in the years since they entered Witness Protection: Michael is a former professional robber who finds himself dissatisfied with his cushy "retirement" in an upscale West Coast neighborhood, his wife Amanda spends his money with great abandon and sleeps around with several other men, his daughter Tracey is a spoiled-rotten fame-seeking brat, and his son Jimmy is a pot-smoking gaming addict with no netiquitte whatsoever.
  • Persona: The Velvet Room siblings are a complete basket case by human standards, and it's mostly Elizabeth's fault. Having little consideration for others and only hearing what she wants to hear, Elizabeth gets her amusement by tormenting Theodore with increasingly nasty pranks like feeding him dog food or tricking him with misconceptions about the human world. Margaret, the oldest, does nothing to curb Elizabeth (it doesn't help that Elizabeth is implied to be her favorite), and often engages in bullying Theodore herself, just in a more passive way. Caroline and Justine are rightfully terrified of their older sisters, and admit to thinking of them as enemies more often than not. That said, the twins and Theo are more openly fond of each other.
  • Tangle Tower is focused on two dysfunctional families, the Fellows and the Pointers, who are linked by marriage into one big Dysfunctional Family.
  • The Entrati family in Warframe are some of the last surviving Orokin in the Sol system... unfortunately, they're a screwed-up mess of pity, self loathing, spite, misery, sarcasm, and Infestation. It's your job, as you level with their syndicate, to try and patch them up like some sort of quilt of neuroses.

    Web Animation 
  • Etra chan saw it!:
    • Hiiragi's family is riddled with problems: drowning in debt, his parents are part of a shady cult, a shut-in older brother and an older sister who ran away to get away from these problems.
    • Karin's family have a lot of problems: Her father, Tachibana is an alcoholic, short-tempered Domestic Abuser. Her mother, Akane, is a hysterical woman who refuses to take care of her children and the house. Her older brother, Hiiragi, is a narcissist jobless man who often plays around with different women. Averted for her younger brother, Katsura, since he is the other Only Sane Man in the house along with her.


    Web Original 
  • In Siblings, the short depicts a little girl whose parents are in a heated argument. When her little brother accidentally annoys her with his fish bowl she in a fit of anger accidentally breaks it, killing the goldfish. This reduces the little brother to tears and when the sister tries to get her parents to help they are still too busy arguing to pay attention to their crying child. When she goes to her room to distract her from her situation, only to realize how her upbringing is causing her to lash out at her younger brother and finally feels guilty. She fortunately gets better and reconciles with her younger brother and they give their pet a grave ending in a bittersweet note.

  • Zeus and Hera's family in Thalia's Musings, both with their legitimate children and Zeus' bastards to whom Hera is the Wicked Stepmother.
  • Apparently, King Boo is the father of Mr. Doom's Boo. Pink Boo is either his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife, and all the little mini-Boos are their kids. This doesn't stop them from giving him crap; instead, they're constantly after him to pay child support instead of spending all his coins to support his Star habit.

    Western Animation 

  • Bob's Burgers: The Belchers are composed of Tina, the socially-awkward, boy-crazy teenage daughter; Gene, the loud and eccentric middle child; Louise, the mischievous and somewhat sociopathic youngest daughter; Linda, the doting, enthusiastic, and occasionally drunk mother; and Bob, the family patriarch and Straight Man who's not without his own quirks and obsessions. They love each other, but also drive each other up the wall to various degrees.
  • Bojack Horseman:
  • Daria doesn't so much have dysfunctional families as it technically has a few families that might, under a generous reading, count as functional.
    • The issues the Morgendorffers have, at least in part, derive from the somewhat messed-up nature of their parents' own families.
    • Brittany has a stepmother who doesn't really "mother" and a father who spoils her and is dismissive of her younger brother, who's kind of a budding serial killer.
    • Jodie's parents are extremely pushy and don't let her relax much.
    • Even relatively minor characters like Mr DeMartino have have histories involving bad parenting from screwed-up people.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • A mild example with Dexter's family. Dad is a wannabe candidate for Jock Dad, Nerd Son despite not being all that physically accomplished himself, Mom has massive OCD and germaphobia and compulsively cleans the house constantly as well as extremely bad-tempered if anyone ever questions her decisions or requests, Dee-Dee is a bully at her worst and The Ditz at other times, and Dexter himself keeps his giant lab a secret from his parents, and is rather alienated from his family because of his intellect, which the others have difficulty comprehending. Despite this, it rarely causes friction and the family is close.
    • Mandark's family is one as well. He's the son of two hippie parents who raised their son according to counter-culture values. Unfortunately, their son is their opposite in every way, and their attempts at quelling his darker impulses failed. It probably didn't help that they named him "Susan". It also doesn’t help they had a daughter who only appeared once...
  • El Tigre: The Rivera family consist of generations of heroes and villains; father Rondolfo is the hero White Pantera, Grandpapi is the villain Puma Loco, and our titular character Manny is permanently stuck in the Heel–Face Revolving Door, so more than a few squabbles occur. When the men are sent to family counseling, their counselor flat-out states that this is because they relate to each other as heroes and villains than as relatives. However, when the chips are down, they've always got each others backs.
  • Family Guy: The Griffins are of a more traditional sitcom setup in the style of The Simpsons. Peter Griffin is a Manchild who combines low intelligence and massive emotional immaturity with a dangerous lack of common sense. Lois Griffin is a shrewish housewife who can't control her husband's behavior. Chris Griffin, like his father, is a Fat Idiot who shows lack of knowledge. Meg Griffin is the Butt-Monkey of the entire family, if not the whole town. It's telling that the best adjusted members of the family are the one-year-old Enfant Terrible Stewie (who's a murderer a dozen times over) and Know-Nothing Know-It-All Funny Animal Brian, who are able to rely on each other for emotional support.
  • Goof Troop: The Petes consist of a father who abuses one child while spoiling the other when he's not neglecting both of them (Pete), a mother who is usually yelling at her husband and daughter (Peg), a son who is emotionally damaged, disillusioned with his father, and impatient to leave home (PJ), and a Bratty Half-Pint daughter who gets on everyone's nerves (Pistol). They are the foil family for the main Quirky Household from whom the show takes its name, and when PJ is in focus (and occasionally when he's not), it's portrayed more as a Big, Screwed-Up Family.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • The Gleeful family, natch. Gideon just proves to be Abusive Offspring to both his parents, to the point where his mother is traumatized and his father is implied to constantly erase his memories of Gideon's outbursts of anger.
    • Also, the Northwest family. Descended from a long line of Card Carrying Villains, Pacifica is pretty much treated like a dog by her parents, her father having Pavlov-conditioned her to get back in line at the sound of a small bell. It makes Pacifica's defiance of her parents to let in the commoners all the more courageous.
  • On Hey Arnold!, the residents of the boarding house are presented as being dysfunctional True Companions.
  • The Legend of Korra: Seventy years later, most of the original Gaang has a more realistic, downplayed Parents as People-based version of this.
    • Aang unknowingly favored his airbending son Tenzin over his other two kids (partly out of necessity as Tenzin would have to guide all future airbenders).
    • Toph couldn't bring herself to discipline her kids (having been raised by overprotective parents), leading to one joining a gang and the other becoming an uptight jerk who never knew who her father was.
    • Sokka doesn't seem to have started a family, and only Zuko's daughter seems to not be carrying any lingering luggage from her childhood.
    • Unlike the Fire Nation Royal family, however, the gang all still loved their children and raised them into functional, healthy adults who still cherish their parents' fond memories.
  • Looney Tunes: Possibly one of the earliest depictions of a dysfunctional family in animation is Chuck Jones "Three Bears". This is especially prominent in A Bear for Punishment where Mama and Junyer celebrate Father's Day much to the annoyance of Papa Bear.
  • Moral Orel lives and breathes this trope, though it's more the "Idyllic outside, dysfunctional inside" version.
  • Paradise PD: The Crawford family. Kevin is a moronic, socially-inept loser. Randall is a hot-heated bigot who has no respect for his son whatsoever. Karen, despite being the most reasonable member of the household, is a Corrupt Politician who has no problem using Kevin as a guinea pig for her re-election campaigns. Season 4 introduces Baby Kevin, an Enfant Terrible who is full of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Heinz Doofenshmirtz lived with two generations of a dysfunctional family (the first was a severe case, the second was more mild though), which gives him a Freudian Excuse for his evil plans. He was raised by emotionally abusive and neglectful parents who eventually abandoned him to live with wild animals, while having a bitter jealousy of his more favored brother (all Played for Laughs). He is currently divorced from his former wife (although they don't seem to resent each other), and he has an uneasy relationship with his daughter (though fortunately, she gradually warms up to him).
  • Rick and Morty: The Smith Family. There is continuing strife between the parents, Beth and Jerry, who married young after Beth became pregnant with their daughter, Summer, when they were in high school. Their relationship is further strained by Beth's relationship with her Mad Scientist father, Rick, and his influence over their teenage children, especially their son Morty. Despite this, the family seems to care for each other and Beth and Jerry do seem to love each other deep down.
  • The Simpsons: The obvious exemplar, we could be here all day with examples to back up their inclusion. However, even if the President wished Americans could be "more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons," they stay together, go to church together and eat dinner together every night, and they're ultimately closely-knit.
    Bart: Hey! We're like the Waltons. We're prayin' for an end to the depression, too.
  • South Park: While most of the families in South Park has some measure of problems, by far the worst are Kenny and Cartman's families:
    • Kenny's parents are both unemployed alcoholics who constantly emotionally and physically abuse each other (though they dont generally target their kids), and their three children are forced to rely on each other for support. They've been taken by social services at least once.
    • Cartman is the Bastard Bastard son of a Denver Broncos player, and lives with his enabling doormat of a mother, whose lax parenting has resulted in her son becoming a full-blown sociopath by age 10.
  • The Diamond Authority of Steven Universe. While the Diamonds do love each other, they've got serious issues and don't get along the best. White Diamond seems to never be around, Yellow Diamond seems unable to understand her sisters or take their issues seriously, Blue Diamond can be condescending to her sisters without meaning to, and Pink could annoy the others without meaning to and seemed unwilling to be open towards them. Back when Pink was around, how her sisters acted towards her ultimately alienated her and she came to the conclusion they didn't give a darn about her at all. Despite Pink Diamond's faked death briefly uniting the other three to use the Corruption attack, the situation doesn't seem to have changed all that much after six thousand years. As the major theme of the show is interpersonal relationships, it's understandable the main antagonists would represent a negative one.
  • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home has a downplayed example. While the Boyles clearly love each other, Chet is a hippie college drop-out, Alice is a naive teenager who wants to be a sexually liberated woman, and Irma wants to expand her horizons outside of the home, so there's going to be some friction with Harry.


Video Example(s):


Sam & Mickey

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