Anger Throughout the Generations

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Buck Black offers psychotherapy for anger issues through his practice in the Lafayette Indiana area ( via phone, email, and office visits. He ...Read More

Anger often runs in families. Frequently, people can think back to their parents, grandparents and other extended family as being angry people. Many think this is a genetic condition. However, most experts agree that anger is a learned behavior, assuming that it is not stemming from Bipolar Disorder or any other mental illness.

A family teaches a child how to express feelings such as being happy, sad, scared, and even angry. If the family members do not handle anger appropriately (frequent verbal and/or physical anger outbursts), then the child is likely to exhibit that same behavior. Remember, to the child, the entire world handles anger (and other emotions) the same way as his/her family.


Keep in mind there are no ideal parents. This stems from Transactional Analysis’ idea that each person’s parents have flawed ways of parenting, which is passed on to the next generation. If a family has problems in the way in which they handle anger, it can be passed on from generation to generation. It is up to the individual to decide if their behaviors are helping or hurting the family, instead of carrying on the same behavior patterns because that is what he/she knows.

What can you do if you are passing anger on to your children? First, remember that you are the role model. If you are able to control your anger, then you really do break the chain of anger that is being passed along through the generations. Just think about how amazing it would be to help the next generation of your family lead a calm and successful life.

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When family members become angry, it is important to take the time to talk with them about their feelings. Remember that anger is never the primary feeling. Depression, sadness, fear, anxiety, and a host of other emotions can be at the root of anger. It is important to encourage a family environment where all members are able to talk freely about their emotions without being criticized. Rewarding good behavior and acknowledging successes in controlling anger is a great way to encourage a family to work towards happiness.

What can be done to address anger in the family?

Take steps to reduce your anger

  • Anger is energy. Are you going to use this energy for something productive or destructive?
  • Will it matter tomorrow? Next week? Next Month?
  • If you allow others to make you angry, you are allowing them to control you. Do you really want others pulling your strings?
  • Look at it as a test
  • The only person responsible for your anger is you

Model appropriate communication skills with your partner

Educate your child about anger

Discuss ways the family can cope with anger and other feelings

Encourage exercise

Participate in family therapy to formulate a plan on how your family will handle anger and other emotions. Individual therapy or anger management may be appropriate.

Learn Choice Theory by William Glasser, MD.

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