Family’s expressive style


Family Matters

Thomas Kulanjiyil, PsyD, PhD, is a founding member of PARIVAR International. He currently serves on the faculty of College of DuPage. He is co-editor of the book, “Caring for the South Asians-Counseling South Asians in the West.” Dr. Kulanjiyil can be reached at For any personal or family issues contact Parivar Family Helpline:(877)-743-5711.

By Thomas Kulanjiyil
Family’s expressive style can reveal us the kind of relationships that exist within families, and also the characteristic way in which family members approach familial problems. We shall consider six main expressive styles:

Blame dominated families: Members are critical, judgmental, angry and accusative. Members accuse each other for problems in the family. Resentment and hostility that builds up in the family prevent them from finding any mutually agreed resolutions.

Argumentative families: Members constantly argue with each other, and quarrel and disputes dominate these families. Relationships are characterized by strife and discord.

Emotion dominated families: The emotional climate of the family is too intense. Finding solutions in a greatly emotionally charged atmosphere is quite hard. 

Emotionally distinct and blocked families: In contrast to the emotionally dominated families, there are those that are emotionally distinct and blocked. Mutual sharing and support is impracticable in these families.

Passive-aggressive families: Members express their conflicts passive aggressively. They look for subtle ways to express their anger, resentment and disagreements   with each other.  Members  are not honest and open to each other. Unforgiving spirit persist to haunt relationships.

Mutually engaging, emotionally balanced families: Members are mutually concerned with each other, and are emotionally close to one another, without being imperious on each other. Relationships are mutual and cordial. Finding solutions to common problems is relatively easy in these families.
The blame-dominated families must learn to deal with their critical, fault finding disposition to take responsibility for their share of problems. Persons must be separated from problems, and problems must be objectively tackled.  

Argumentative families must be taught to negotiate solutions to common problems. A solution-focused mind-set can help families seek creative solutions to their problems. 

Emotionally dominated families must be trained in keeping emotional symmetry when it comes to facing problems. Separating problems from emotions can often provide the needed objectivity in addressing problems and finding practical solutions.  

Passive-aggressive behaviors must be replaced by more straightforward, honest communication. The ability to express one’s thoughts and feelings openly and truthfully, is a great relational skill to put into practice.  

When family members are mutually engaging and supportive, the family gets firmly grounded and becomes resourceful to turn problems into solutions, and obstacles into new avenues of growth and success.


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