Systemic Humiliation in Families

  • Connie Dawson


A set of implicit shame-based rules governing family interactions, relationships, and expectations has evolved over time in our society. Family members tend to draw upon the norms of their upbringing from earlier generations. Even when problems break through the façade of healthy interactions among family members, parents tend to repeat the learned implicit rules that foster humiliation. In many families, shame and humiliation function as a tool for control and manipulation, particularly for parents who rely on authoritarian or permissive parenting styles.

By exposing the implicit rules, families can make a determination whether to retain or abandon them. If abandoned, the possibility emerges for shifting to the use of explicit rules on which to base family interactions, thereby fostering dignified family relationships. With commonly held values, beliefs, and behaviors, each family constitutes a culture in and of itself. Changing the family culture involves permission to identify family problems relating to the implicit rules and the opportunity to get appropriate help and support in their communities. The power dynamic in families can be shifted from humiliation to dignity by using an authoritative parenting style, which in turn calls for high warmth and caring, and high control based on respect for each person. The family that deploys the explicit rules of an authoritative parenting style can transform a humiliation-based family system to one based on respect and dignity.


Dignity Problem-solving Parenting Rules Competence Control 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Connie Dawson
    • 1
  1. 1.Portland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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