Family dynamics refers to the patterns of interactions among relatives, their roles and relationships, and the various factors that shape their interactions. Because family members rely on each other for emotional, physical, and economic support, they are one of the primary sources of relationship security or stress. Secure and supportive family relationships provide love, advice, and care, whereas stressful family relationships are burdened with arguments, constant critical feedback, and onerous demands.
Interpersonal interactions among family members have lasting impacts and influence the development and well-being of an individual via psychosocial, behavioral, and physiological pathways. Thus, family dynamics and the quality of family relationships can have either a positive or negative impact on health.
Several factors can influence family dynamics. Some researchers have identified individuation, mutuality, flexibility, stability, clear communication, and role reciprocity as the primary factors contributing to healthy family dynamics. In particular, mutuality, meaning a shared feeling of cohesion and warmth, has been identified as the strongest contributing factor. In contrast, factors contributing to unhealthy family dynamics include enmeshment, isolation, rigidity, disorganization, unclear communication, and role conflict.
The definition of family itself has morphed over the years. In previous generations, families stayed close to each other, and multiple generations helped raise the children. It is now more common for families to be spread across the country and grandparents to have less involvement in their grandchildren's lives. Without family close by, some develop a core group of local families, which they consider their family. This family structure can change with moves so a person's family can be a fluid situation. Another aspect of family that has changed over the years is the acknowledgment and acceptance of non-traditional families and the increase of blended families.