Find out how personality type can play a part in family conflict and poor communication. This article also contains action plans for improved communication and relationships. #Personality #MBTI #INFJ #INTJ #INFP #INTP

Family Dysfunction and Personality Type

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Have you ever felt like the veritable “ugly duckling” in your family? It might feel like everyone else fits certain criteria, but no matter how hard you try fitting in it still seems like an exercise in futility. Perhaps you get along great with your family, but there’s a sense that you’re all living in a “bubble” and you’re missing out on some other valuable perspectives. Chances are, personality type has a part to play in the experiences you’re going through. Type may not be the only reason why there are issues in a family, but it often plays at least a small part in family dysfunction.

Not sure what your personality type is? Take our new personality questionnaire!

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Family Dysfunction and Personality Type

What Is a Dysfunctional Family?

Before we get into type’s role in all of this, let’s take a look at what family dysfunction really is. The Medical Dictionary defines ‘dysfunctional family’ like this:

“A family with multiple ‘internal’ – e.g. sibling rivalries, parent-child – conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, or ‘external’ – eg. Alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment – influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit.” lists eight common characteristics of a dysfunctional family. These include:

  • Addiction
  • Perfectionism
  • Abuse
  • Unpredictability and Fear
  • Conditional Love
  • Lack of Boundaries
  • Lack of Intimacy
  • Poor Communication

Today we’re not going to get into issues of addiction, abuse, gambling, or unemployment. We’re only going to look at the difficulties that personality type can impact. These difficulties include sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, perfectionism, and poor communication. We’re going to go through each of these issues one-by-one so that you can see how type differences can cause family dysfunction to show up in an otherwise normal home.

Personality Type and Sibling Rivalries

In a study published in 2016 by the Journal of Marriage and Family, 75% of mothers admitted to being closer to one child. Parental favoritism is often at the center of sibling rivalries. Personality differences also play a part. Here’s an example to give an idea of how many sibling conflicts escalate:

A feeling dominant brother (ESFJ) is trying to maintain harmony in the home along with the feeling-oriented mother (INFJ). They both give priority to feeling over thinking when making decisions involving the family. Meanwhile, the thinking-dominant sister (ISTP) is seen as needlessly critical and argumentative. The ESFJ brother can’t figure out why ISTP sister won’t just get along and work with the family “team” to maintain harmony. He devalues her problem-solving abilities because she expresses herself in a way that contrasts with his feeling orientation. It seems to him like she’s always critiquing things and questioning rules. ISTP sister sees ESFJ brother as a “suck-up” and a people-pleaser. She devalues his ability to sense the needs of the people around him. Fights erupt and hurt feelings linger and build over time. The INFJ mother feels a more natural understanding with her ESFJ son because they both process decisions through feeling. She struggles communicating clearly with the ISTP daughter and the daughter feels hurt and rejected.

The scenario above is just one of countless scenarios in which personality type can create chasms between siblings. We can’t possibly cover all the potential scenarios in this article, but we’ll take a look at some of the most common sibling rivalries related to type.

Feeling Sibling + Thinking Sibling: Feeling sibling believes that the thinking sibling is uncaring, cold, argumentative, or overly-detached. Thinking sibling believes that the feeling sibling is overly sensitive, illogical, too attached to their values. Arguments erupt when feeling sibling argues from a place of values or ethics and thinking sibling argues from a place of logic or causality.

Extroverted Sibling + Introverted Sibling: Extroverted sibling thinks the introverted sibling doesn’t like him/her because he always wants time alone. Extroverted sibling pushes introverted sibling into social settings which results in the introvert becoming angry and lashing out. Extroverted sibling pesters introverted sibling or gives up on the relationship. Introverted sibling’s needs are possibly not respected in the home. Extroverted sibling’s needs are possibly not respected in the home. Introvert becomes drained by lack of alone time or extrovert becomes drained by lack of outside stimulation. They both see the other as uncooperative.

Sensing Sibling + Intuitive Sibling: Sensing sibling believes intuitive sibling is too fanciful or detached from reality. Sensing siblings wants intuitive sibling to be more specific and literal. Intuitive sibling believes sensing sibling is too unimaginative or literal. Intuitive sibling wants sensing sibling to be more big-picture oriented and conceptual. Both de-value the other’s intelligence and struggle to connect via communication.

Judging Sibling + Perceiving Sibling: Judging sibling believes that the perceiving sibling is lazy, a procrastinator, unpredictable, and inconsistent. Perceiving sibling sees judging sibling as too controlling, rigid, rule-abiding, or too easily flustered by change. Both feel misunderstood and judge or feel judged by the other.

Are sibling rivalries bound to happen when siblings have different preferences? Absolutely not. Sometimes children with different preferences bond in a powerful way and help to increase each other’s maturity and self-awareness. However, these types of rivalries can occur, particularly in families where there is unhealthy or absent communication, conditional love, or poor support and guidance from parents. If the most involved parent in the home shares more type preferences with one child over another, a “type culture” can be created that unintentionally devalues the gifts of the child with alternate preferences.  The other sibling feels misunderstood, pressured, unappreciated, angry, and especially resentful of the sibling who shares type preferences with the parent.

Ways to Heal Sibling Rivalry and Other Family Conflict Issues:

Family personality type

Step 1

If you sense that there is a lot of sibling rivalry in the home related to type differences then it’s time to make an assessment of your family. Get a piece of paper and write down each person’s preferences (if you don’t know them all, just write down the ones you do know).

For example:

The Johnson Family

Oldest Daughter: INFP
Middle Son: ESTJ
Youngest Son: XSFJ

Step 2

Father and mother should get together and assess any similarities or differences in preferences among family members. How do you see the introverts getting along versus the extroverts? Is there an adult or child that is the “odd one out” when it comes to a particular preference? Are there any signs that this child feels de-valued or maybe idealized? The parents in the family should look everything over and also analyze the unique stressors of each of the family members in their home. You can see a list of possible stressors for introverted types here and extroverted types here. Discuss ways you might be seeing stress among each family member based on the expectations, rules, and lifestyle of the home.

Step 3

Set up a family meeting. This should be at a time when everyone is relaxed and no conflicts are already at play.

Step 4

Ask the introverts and extroverts to discuss their needs separately. Then ask them to come together and list 3 things they struggle with in the home related to their introversion or extroversion, and 3 things that they appreciate in the home. Look for some agreed-upon solutions to help extroverts and introverts both get their needs met. Write these down.

Step 5

Continue this process with each preference. Intuitive and sensors. Thinking and feeling types. Judgers and perceivers.  Pay special attention to family members who are unique from the rest of the group. In the example above of the Johnson family, you can see that the oldest daughter is the only intuitive and the only perceiving type. Does she feel misunderstood or forced into a lifestyle that doesn’t fit her? Or does she feel overly-idealized because of her differences? Try to find some articles that would describe each child’s strengths so that everyone can realize the capabilities of each individual in the home. Realize, however, that if a child hasn’t been nurtured properly that they may not be showing those strengths. They may have been trying to operate in the same style as the predominant “family culture” and therefore haven’t been able to strengthen their own natural gifts.

Step 6

Come up with a family action plan for acceptance in the home based on the conversations that take place. Make sure each individual gets a chance to discuss their thoughts and needs. Remember that it’s impossible to completely cater to every personality type and that’s okay. The goal is to let everyone feel heard, understood, and appreciated for who they are. This meeting will give each family member a chance to speak up for themselves and bring up their needs and possible frustrations in a judgment-free zone.

Some helpful articles to possibly reference during the family meeting:

What Your Child Needs to Hear, Based On Their Personality Type

What Your Child Needs, Based On Their Personality Type

The Childhood Struggles of Every Myers-Briggs® Personality Type

Parent-Child Conflicts

Parent-child conflicts are more likely to occur when children and parents don’t share the same type preferences. This is especially true if a parent doesn’t have an understanding of personality type. An introverted parent may view their extroverted child as showy, loud, obnoxious, or attention-seeking. An extroverted parent might view their introverted child as reclusive, boring, anti-social, or cold. Parents might try to change their children into their own image, viewing their natural wiring as the only “right” way to be. The child might try to oblige the parents for a while, but over time this can lead to resentment and frustration for everyone involved.

Extroverted Parents

Remember introverted children are energized by the inner world of ideas, reflections, and inner analysis. It doesn’t mean they dislike you if they want to spend most of their time in their room. They will respond better to a question if they have time to process it first. Chances are, they’ll become irritable if they have to socialize most of the day.

Introverted Parents

Remember extroverted children are energized by the outside world of people, activities, or objects. They aren’t trying to get in your way or disrupt your peace, they are simply trying to connect with you and energize themselves with interaction and experience. Continually shutting them down and telling them to be alone is the equivalent of an extrovert constantly forcing you to be around people. Balance is key. Some alone time each day for an extrovert is a good thing. Spending 80% of the day alone is not.

Thinking Parents

Remember that feeling children are more likely to take criticism personally. Give them words of affirmation consistently, and when you have to criticize, make sure to affirm your intentions rather than focusing solely on their mistake. Affirm that you love them and appreciate their good qualities. Remember that conflict is especially disruptive to feeling types and they may feel compelled to fix it (especially FJ children). Don’t create a lifestyle in the home that forces feeling children into perpetual mediation, need-tending, and peacemaking. This isn’t a healthy position for a child to be in.

Feeling Parents

Remember that thinking children seek logic over value-laden reasoning. They respond to straightforward direction and they want rules reasonably explained. If you have to give criticism, cut to the chase and avoid emotional lecturing or “sugarcoating”. Be kind, but don’t beat around the bush. If they struggle with emotional connection or empathy, don’t take it personally. For some thinking types, empathy is a learned skill. Re-phrase insensitive comments to them so that they can have easier communication with others. Show appreciation for their problem-solving abilities and their critical thinking skills.

Intuitive Parents

Remember that sensing children want explicit, literal instructions. Don’t be vague or skip steps when giving them a direction. They might get irritated with you if you’re constantly trying to engage their imagination or talk concepts rather than give them facts and real-world experience. These kids trust what they can touch, feel, taste, hear, or what has been proven to them through life experience itself. Clarity is key and these kids will learn best through experience.

Sensing Parents

Remember that intuitive children need a big-picture vision or idea in order to be inspired. They don’t want a ton of sequential steps when getting directions. They prefer to be given an overall goal and then fill in and ask questions as necessary. Let them imagine, question, and try things in new ways. A conversation about concrete day-to-day experiences can make them bored and irritable sometimes. Appeal to their imagination and understand that they will be more drawn to the abstract than the concrete.

Judging Parents

Remind yourself that perceiving children aren’t necessarily lazy or unproductive, although their style might seem like it to you. They like a lot of variety and spontaneity in their lives. A rigid structure and a very repetitive routine can make them irritable and frustrated. They will feel trapped if every part of their day is planned out or managed. They think best when they can mix work with play and mix up their routine. Give them the chance to prove that they can keep up with their tasks in their own way. If they are perpetually missing deadlines then step in and give them some time management techniques and reminders so that they can stay on top of their homework. Make sure that they’re getting unstructured time each day.

Perceiving Parents

Remind yourself that judging children need structure and consistency in their lives. They will get irritated if they are interrupted or forced to change their focus in the middle of a project. These kids want to finish what they start before they do anything else. They need time to switch gears between activities. They may not react well to surprises or spontaneous outings. Try to give them advanced notice of what your plans are for any given day. Remember that judging types feel responsible for the environment they are in. This can make them appear like “control freaks” sometimes, but it’s their way of organizing things so that they can think more clearly and accomplish their goals.


Perfectionism can be displayed by any personality type, and it’s never something you want overrunning a household. Here are some things each type might want to look out for when running the home.

Introverts: Don’t expect your house to be perfectly quiet with children. Make sure you’re getting regular time alone, but don’t stifle the needs of the extroverts in the family. If things are noisy from time to time that’s normal. It’s not a sign that your family is out of control.

Extroverts: Don’t pressure your family into near-constant social excursions and outings. This may be your idea of fun, but not theirs. Don’t take it personally or consider yourself a failure if some of your family members seem happiest when they’re alone.

Intuitives: Don’t de-value the needs of sensing children by “zoning out” when they’re discussing details or concrete experiences. Realize that they are more focused on the present than the future and may not feel as inspired by your new idea as you are. That’s okay. Show appreciation for their perspective and spend occasional time doing hands-on activities with them. Also, don’t beat yourself up if your family life doesn’t match up to the vision you had many years ago. Intuitives tend to create idealized visions of family life and the reality of family life can be very different from the dream. Appreciate the positive moments and accept that family life has its ups and downs. Get help if you need it.

Sensors: Don’t condescend to intuitive children by saying their heads are in the clouds or they are too unrealistic. Listen to their imaginative ramblings and realize that they will be more focused on concepts than concrete experiences. Don’t talk over them or argue with them constantly when they’re trying to bring up a hypothetical scenario or envision possibilities. Let them have some time each day to let their mind wander over unusual scenarios. Let them try things in new ways sometimes, even if it feels unreasonable to you.

Thinkers: Don’t force feeling children to make decisions the same way that you do. Remember that feeling children will step into a situation personally before they decide. They want to know how a decision aligns with their values or impacts the people around them. They can feel indecisive and stressed if they have to make a decision that may upset other people. Don’t make fun of their emotions, or act aghast when they make a decision that to you seems illogical. Encourage them to stand up for themselves even when it may upset others. Validate their feelings, and calmly explain the logical consequences of something if they are too fixated on the personal aspects of a decision.

Feelers: Don’t act shocked or offended when thinking children speak their minds directly. When they are faced with a decision rather than step “in” to the situation, they step “out” to view it objectively and without personal bias. They try to detach themselves emotionally from a situation when they assess it. This can make them seem “cold” or lacking in empathy to some feeling types, but it also helps them to stay level-headed and logical.

Judgers: Don’t force perceiving children to do all their homework and all their chores as soon as they get home from school. They will likely need some time to decompress and live freely before they settle back into homework and responsibility. Judgers like to get everything done ahead of schedule, but perceivers work in spurts. Make sure they are meeting their obligations and responsibilities, but try to break up tasks with chunks of regular free time.

Perceivers: Don’t berate judging children or call them “high strung” or “uptight”. Don’t force them into a constantly changing, unpredictable lifestyle. Knowing you’ll be on time, dependable, and consistent is important to them. Give them a heads up when something is going to happen so that they can mentally prepare.

Poor Communication:

So many family rivalries are the result of poor communication. This is especially true when family members de-value each other because their type preferences don’t align. We’ve gone over a lot of the ways that poor communication can show up in the sections preceding this so I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail right here. However, doing the things below will help to open the channels of communication among family members of all types:

  • Schedule regular family time together (preferably without screens or devices around)
  • Have small family rituals (like a story before bed or a family game night) that encourage intimacy.
  • Eat meals together, without the TV on or phones at the table.
  • Make sure children get at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time each day.
  • Be an active listener. Focus 100% on what your child is saying. Make sure you understand your child correctly before you give advice or criticism. Paraphrase your child’s words back to them to make sure you’re being accurate.
  • If there are issues in the family, make sure that you attack the problem itself, NOT the family member personally.
  • Start each day fresh. Don’t hold onto bitterness, anger, or disappointments.
  • Ask forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes and acknowledging this is important.

When it comes to personality type and communication, you can find a whole bunch of tips to encourage positive communication here: How Each Personality Type Likes to Communicate.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Was this article helpful to you? Do you have any of your own thoughts or experience to share? Let us know in the comments! You can also discover your child’s personality type as well as some other parenting tips in our Parenting by Personality eCourse!

Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type,  The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via FacebookInstagram, or Twitter!

Find out how personality type can impact family conflicts and dysfunctions. Get tips for improving communication and healing damaged relationships among siblings and parents. #MBTI #Personality #INFJ #INTJ #INFP #INTP
Find out how personality type can play a part in family conflict and poor communication. This article also contains action plans for improved communication and relationships. #Personality #MBTI #INFJ #INTJ #INFP #INTP

Similar Posts


  1. I’m an INFJ. My parents were combative substance abusers and pedophiles. I was fostered from age 1 to age 4. My dad was in and out of jail or prison or drove long-distance trucks. I grew up alone even if we were all in the house, which change twice a year until middle school. At 17 I enlisted in the US Navy/ submarines. Now factor in that I am intersexed and didn’t start living a male until age 15. I returned to life as female after I retired from submarines.

    I haven’t seen my family since the day I enlisted. They’re nearly all dead now.

    So yes, I did grow up feeling isolated. I practiced a few years in alcoholism and dabbled in drugs. And apparently I’m diagnosed as sociopathic with s MENSA level intellect. And I have a deteriorating eidetic memory as I enter my mid 60’s.

    Just sharing. I still believe I had a good childhood because I like me.

  2. Oh dear… I’m the INFP in the Johnson family ????
    I always knew I was the odd one out in the family and getting into typology helped to answer a lot of questions… but this article is break things down very nicely, I’ll have to bring this up next time is have “family time” …. xoxo

  3. This is one of the best posts yet. I’ve recently been grappling with the realization that my family on both sides is riddled with borderline personality disorder and other Type B maladaptations. It’s intergenerational and of course the root of it is trauma with all kinds of attendant abuse and neglect. This has been going on for a l-o-n-g time, and I mean long arcs of time, that long precede my lifetime. Personality type adds another layer or way to further understand dysfunctional family dynamics. Thank you for this information! I look forward to considering this further and how it contributes to present difficulties.

  4. Me: ENFP
    Husband: ISTJ
    Son: INTJ
    Daughter: ESFP

    My husband makes sure we all eat and go to bed on time, I make sure we all go on adventures, my son makes us think more deeply about things and my daughter makes us all laugh! We all seem to balance each other out. I think seeing my husband and I respecting each other’s differences helps the kids to get along between themselves.

  5. This article really is accurate and helping! Family is such a big chapter in one’s everyday life!
    I’ve always felt that in my family we live in a bubble (because we are all introverts except my sister) that there were always misunderstandings between the thinker males and the feeling females (and they had always joking that we are too sensitive or crybabies) and that I have the most intimacy with my mom that is NF like me. Also my younger sister, the only extrovert of the family had always struggled with our lifestyle and always joked that she’s the family’s ugly duck!
    Everything makes sense! Definitely going to have a nice chat with them next time, talking about this article 🙂 Thank you Susan!

  6. I don’t know if anyone else is having this technology problem, but the type font on these excellent pieces is so small and light colored, that I often can’t read them when I try to print.

  7. Also, don’t beat yourself up if your family life doesn’t match up to the vision you had many years ago. Intuitives tend to create idealized visions of family life and the reality of family life can be very different from the dream

    this hit home. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone advise a parent to let the vision evolve with the children. Thanks.

    Family Tree Me, oldest son
    Dad/Mom ENTJ/INFP

    Family Tree for Spouse, youngest dtr
    Dad/Mom ESFP/ESTJ
    Dtr/Dtr/Dtr ISFP, ISFJ, ENTP

  8. I tried to read this article but quickly lost interest since I have no idea what my mother and sister are. I just can’t relate to it. I am an INFP. It seems to me you really have to be into this subject. I follow it, but this is way deeper than i go.

  9. I know since I was a child I have different mindset with my family. After I learn about MBTI and Cognitive Function, I realised why I always feel more considerate to a little things than them such as a dying animal, etc.

    This is my family member’s types :
    Dad : ESTJ
    Mom : ISTJ
    Me : INFP
    Little Sister : ESTJ

    Yes, an INFP between xSTJ types :). My mom is little bit complicated to type at first. Almost people who knows her will think if she’s a feeler because she’s so sensitive and emotionally immature. When the first time I tried to type her, I mistyped her as xSFJ because I know she’s so Si and sensitive. But, after observing a long time after that I realise she’s an ISTJ with immature Fi-tert because Fe doesn’t match her and Te is what she possess all the time. She doesn’t like something uncertain and fix a problem efficiently. That’s what hurt me sometimes because I feel not heard haha… I don’t mean to speak ill of my mom in here. I just want to know your opinion about how to deal with mom or another family members who have immature function like this. Can you tell me if you have any opinion?

    About my dad, I think he’s mature enough right now than when I was a child. He started to understand my Ne although he still little bit hard to understand my Fi sometimes. My sister? We can get along together as a siblings. I usually make unexpected humor then she laugh for it and sometimes she critized what I did to a person or to an animal because for her it’s too feely, but I’m okay with that. What I can’t do to my sister is sharing my feelings and ideas to her because she just want to know but don’t really care about my stories and she’s easily bored with abstract theory that I always love to talk about.

    Maybe, that is why I’m more open and comfortable with my best friends than my family(?). Sorry for this long comment, I just want to share my experience in here. Thank you so much ^_^

  10. All the females in my family of origin are introverted NF Types, and all the males, NTJ. The dominant culture in the family is therefore NT and all of us girls and women got bashed, smashed, and trashed by criticism, humiliation, one-upmanship and judgment, forced to act INTJ when we are all INFx. We had to absorb and reflect what was, to us, toxic insensitivity and over-intellectualizing. Expressing emotions was verboten 100%. As a result, we have powerful feelings that we cannot express. We literally were never taught how–because it was irrelevant and stupid. I have literally never been told I was loved, although we kids were otherwise treated in generally loving ways (apart from the above emotional abuse), e.g., thoughtful gifts, education, and assistance in life.

    My mother was raised similarly, and similarly suppressed her “F” aspects, so she was unable to compensate as a mother otherwise might. She was obliged to intellectualize her mothering. If we girls expressed our true INFP selves (i.e., arguing a point as an NF would do, NOT in NT style), our dad would tell our mother “They’re YOUR kids, not mine.” There ya go. Insulting all of us.

    A psychiatrist, a good friend of the family for years, once said with a straight face “Your dad raised 4 boys including you & your sister”–ha ha.

    Oldest son is identical with dad (INTJ), very difficult to talk to–he literally makes lists of Correct Questions to Ask (“How are you?”) when on the phone because concern for others is so alien (interestingly, his own two children have Aspberger’s)–and is the only child (of 4) not overtly suicidal starting in adolescence. Youngest two (my brother & sister) have had psychotic breaks and tend to dissociate and rage and have been on psych drugs for years to prevent suicide. I have had a series of “nervous breakdowns” all my adult life. I have tried to jump out a window, twice. Once I nearly sleepwalked off a third-story balcony.

    All of us have very high IQ’s and have earned numerous advanced degrees. Of course. I did not want to and I never cared, but I knew there were no other options. I hated academia–it is a cruel culture that hurt students that I tried to help & protect. I retired early.

    I am fortunate to have found a spouse (my third try, in midlife) who understands I am actually a very Feeling and idealistic person who comes across as highly intellectual and critical due to family culture. It is a gift to be allowed to be both who I am, and who my family trained me to be (“brilliant researcher & teacher”), and to know which is more authentic. When I am upset, I channel the worst of my dad and it’s ugly. Sharp, nasty wit. It’s not really me. I have a hidden life of fairies. I talk to trees. My husband (a gentle ISTJ) brings me flowers and cards with butterflies and angels. He knows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.