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Effect of Strained Family Relationships

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.


Importance of Family Relationships

Whether we like it or not, our family relationships are very important for our well-being throughout our lives. In the U.S. today, we have a large aging population, which means there are also concomitant diseases that are age-related.

The need for care-giving has grown, and, on the other hand, social ties in various domains, such as work, are often not as important to many people. Of course, if they are caring for an elderly parent, there are time constraints as well. People are generally waiting longer to marry, and many just live together instead of marrying. For all of these reasons, family relationships have become even more important for many people.


Overall Health for Aging Family Members

A recent study at the Utah Southwestern Medical Center concluded that a difficult emotional climate in a family can negatively affect overall health. Strained relationships with parents, siblings, or extended family members were found to be more significant than an intimate relationship, which is contrary to previous studies. This included the worsening of chronic conditions that included strokes and headaches over a 20-year span of the mid-life years.

Quality of Family Relationships

Family relationships depend on many positive and negative factors.


  • Providing love
  • Providing care
  • Giving advice


  • Arguments
  • One person always being critical
  • Making too many demands on a caregiver

A core component of family relationships is stress, which can undermine mental health. On the other hand, social support may act as protective care, according to L. Pearlin of Cambridge University.

How Family Stress Impacts Health

Previous studies have shown the detrimental effect of stress and strains in family relationships. Health-compromising behaviors may also occur due to stress. In addition, stress in family relationships can impair a person’s immune system; therefore, the cardiovascular system may be affected, and there is an increased risk for depression.



Many people become estranged from family members when the environment becomes toxic. This typically happens when the relationship becomes emotionally, physically, or financially abusive.

Some people are cut off from family members for other reasons, which include:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Addiction
  • Conflict
  • Betrayal
  • Mental illness
  • Criminal behavior
  • Other unhealthy behaviors

A lack of skills to resolve conflicts may also be a reason that family members are estranged.

Attributes of Good Family Relationships

Family members who have a supportive family relationship often feel an improved sense of self-worth. When the family members are supportive of each other, the result is that they encourage optimism, which has a positive effect and can improve mental health. In addition, some family members may somewhat regulate another’s behavior by providing information and encouraging them to behave in a healthier fashion and to utilize needed health care services.

2014 Family Research Survey

The Journal of Family Psychology published the study results from a survey that was completed for 2,802 participants that are in their midlife years. The average age was 45 years. Health was also measured based on the number of chronic conditions that occurred in the prior 12 months of the survey. They rated their health from poor to excellent. The vast majority of the people in the study did have living parents and siblings.

The goal of this survey was to compare family-or-origin relationships to relationships with intimate partners. The researchers asked questions about family support and family strain.

Some of the questions included:

  • "Not including your spouse or partner, how often do members of your family criticize you?
  • How much can you rely on [your family] for help if you have a serious problem?
  • How often does your spouse or partner argue with you?
  • How much does your spouse or partner appreciate you?"

Family Strain Is Associated With Chronic Conditions

The researchers found a strain in family relationships was definitely associated with a greater number of chronic conditions. It also found worsening health problems in the following 10 years and in the third round of the data collection.

Comparably, when the family relationships were positive, the health of the family members was very good. The researchers were surprised there were no significant associations between intimate partner relationships and declining health.

Final Conclusions

Health care providers should consider family relationships when treating patients for physical and mental health problems. Adults with chronic conditions who have to interact in a negative family climate may have an increased number of chronic health conditions. Some doctors have encouraged their patients to bring a supportive family member to their visits as this creates an open dialogue concerning their health problems.

A positive connection to family members offers social support that is not available from other people. If the family is not emotionally toxic, a family member can depend on another family member in times of need, whether it is for emotional support, practical support, or even financial support if the need is desperate.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 26, 2020:

Hi Rajan,

I agree with your thoughts. Thanks so much for your comments

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 25, 2020:

Family relationships have a profound impact on all aspects of an individual's life. I personally have always valued them more other relationships and seem to value them more and more as I get older.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 01, 2020:

Hi Genna,

Family relationships sure can be complicated and I am glad you have some good family relationships. Thank you so much for your very nice comments.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 01, 2020:

Family relationships -- both immediate and extended -- can bring both support, encouragement and love, as well as divisiveness, jealousy and misunderstandings. And they can be are complex. I am close to my remaining family, save one individual. This wonderful article is a must-read for everyone. Well done, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 26, 2020:

Hi Ms Dora, I feel the same way you do about family relationships. I appreciate your comments.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 26, 2020:

Pam, thanks for highlighting the value of good family relationships. I fight for my family connections, which seem more valuable the older I get.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 24, 2020:

Hi Clive, I agree with you and it is sad that sometimes families are torn apart over thing that should not be that important. I appreciate your comments.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on February 24, 2020:

Family bond is important for healthy earth living. Sad that many families are torn apart

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 24, 2020:

Hi Maria, Picking your battles is smart. Family can be so rewarding, yet sometimes they are the biggest battles. Thank you for your comments, Maria.

Love and hugs!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on February 23, 2020:

Comprehensive food for thought on a subject that has the potential to affect us all in some way or another, dear Pamela.

As the expression goes, "you can pick your friends but not your family". As such, I have learned over the years to "pick my battles" as well.

Have a peaceful Sunday. Love, Maria

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Devika, Family and support in general is so important for all of us. I appreciate your very nice comments about this article.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 23, 2020:

Every family needs a secure relationship and strengths are important to feel the love in a family relationship. You have pointed out the most helpful points here and a well written hub..

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Susan, It seems to me that as I have grown older I also have grown wiser concerning family and I imagine that you have also based on your comment. Thank you so much for your comments.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on February 23, 2020:

Very interesting article Pamela. Before I married and had my own family I'd have to say my family relationships were not all that great. I think I learned a lot over the years which has helped me immensely.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Donna, I hope the information in the article helps you with your family relationships. Thank you for your comments. Blessings to you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi MG, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I appreciate your very nice comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Linda, I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful Sunday.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Flourish, It is great that your family has embraced your husband. We all need people that care about us. I appreciate you sharing your family experience.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 23, 2020:

The value of social support is critical. I am lucky to have a great family that is close. My husband’s parents sadly passed away and he doesn’t have many relatives. He has no first cousins. We have recently reunited with a niece of his. He has been estranged from his brother for years. My family has embraced my husband so thoroughly that if we got divorced he’d still be welcomed at family events lol.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 22, 2020:

The information that you've shared is interesting and contains a lot of food for thought. Thank you, Pamela.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 22, 2020:

hello Pamela, that's a wonderful article with lots of information. I must compliment you on your knowledge and putting it to good use for the benefit of all of us.

Donna Rayne from Sparks, NV on February 22, 2020:

Hi, I enjoyed your article, it provided me with a lot to think about and observe in my family! You did a good job touching on so many qualities a family may have or may not have. Mine is complex!


Donna Rayne

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Eric, I understand what you are saying as my family has been close for the last several years but there were problems between some of them severl years ago. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Ruby, I am glad your family was close. I think we all probably know families with problems. I appreciate your comments.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 22, 2020:

I came back to to read again after the first time I had to seriously consider my side of the street with relationships. I am doing fine.

I do remember times when the stress was actually disabling to a degree. I sure am glad I don't have to be 30 something again.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 22, 2020:

A strained family relationship is sad and does cause medical problems. Most of my family is gone, but we were close. I do know families who fuss and fight. This is an important topic with some excellent suggestions in your article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Linda, It is truly a blessing to have a loving and supportive family. I am happy to hear that is the case for you. It is sad to have a lot of conflict with family members. I know people who have that problem also.

I appreciate your comments, Linda. Blessing to you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Vivian, Yes, I think it is easy to internalize stress with the unhealthy family relationships. Stress obviously is not healthy.

Maybe a smaller family does make peace easier. I'm glad you have a peace family, as do I. I appreciate your comments.

Here's to living forever!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Rachel, I think from what I read the good family relationships also help physical health sometimes as well. The relationships are important. I appreciate your comments.

Blessing to you.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on February 22, 2020:

Hi Pamela. This is an important subject. Family relationships are the bases of a good and healthy life. Maybe not physical health but spiritual and moral health. You have a lot of good advise that should be spread around. Thank you for sharing.

Blessings to you.

Vivian Coblentz on February 22, 2020:

This makes a lot of sense. When people have strained family relationships, many internalize the stress, and we know stress adversely affects the body.

Our family is very small, so it really cuts down on the chaos, so life is peaceful--we should live forever, LOL!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2020:

I have been blessed with a loving, supportive family and know that I am very fortunate. Maintaining a healthy relationship takes work, but I can't imagine being estranged from any of my loved ones. I have friends who rarely see or speak with their children and my heart hurts for them, both sides.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Peggy, My parents are both deceased but I still have a sister and brother, plus my children so I am grateful. I agree that friends often become more important as we age and family members pass away.

Thanks so much for your comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2020:

This topic is important, and you addressed it beautifully, Pamela. Sad to say, most of my close family members are deceased. Some extended family members, like cousins, live in different states, and many of them I have seldom seen over the years. Friends become even more important as we age if we no longer have family members for support.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Lorna, Today's world is deinitely more complex. I'm sure you see the results of unsupportive families at the Aged Care Homes more often than most of us. I am glad our family all gets along at this time but many years ago we did have some problems. During that time it was really difficult as my mother and sister really clashed. Thank goodness that time ended and all is well. I appreciate your comments, Lorna.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi John I appreciate your comments about my article. Have a good weekend.

Lorna Lamon on February 22, 2020:

I see the results of failed family relationships when I visit Aged Care Homes. My parents were the cement which held our family together, not always easy with so many different personalities. It's so important to keep our family relationships in constant repair, not only for the benefit of each member but for its many health benefits and support in old age. An excellent article Pamela full of great advice, especially in today's world.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 22, 2020:

Very interesting and informative. Thank you for your research, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Umesh, I appreciate your very nice comments. Have a nice weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2020:

Hi Liz, I agree with you as I think friends can be very supportive and they are usually fun. Thank you for commenting.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 22, 2020:

Pamela, you have written this article from your heart. Its wonderful and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 22, 2020:

I have read your article with interest. I have also seen research that suggests loneliness and lack of friends when older, can have a negative health impact.