Living in an Extended Family: 15 Disadvantages and Drawbacks

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

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Some people love the idea of having a big extended family, but what if I told you that having an extended family is not all rainbows and butterflies? What if I told you that extended families are plagued with challenges and discomforts? Would you be so keen to be a part of one?

If you are part of a big family, you probably have firsthand experience of the ways in which it is the opposite of fun! Some of the possible reasons why being part of an extended family isn’t enjoyable are listed and described below. Does this all sound a little too familiar? Or perhaps you now have a bit more insight into what a friend, partner, or colleague with a big family is going through. 

With this being said, what do we actually consider an “extended family”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term “extended family” as follows; 

“A family that extends beyond the nuclear family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, who all live nearby or in one household”.

Lexico – Powered by Oxford

With this clear definition in mind, let’s take a look at each of the disadvantages of living in an extended family below.

15 disadvantages and drawbacks of extended family:

1. Your personal business is family business.

When there are so many people involved with each other in a family, it’s hard to keep your personal business to yourself. You might share something embarrassing with your mother, who chooses to consult your grandmother on it, who then mentions it with a giggle to your cousin. Before you know it, the whole family knows, and now your personal business is family knowledge. 

2. Interference in parenting and family dynamics by other family members.

You might find that your parenting efforts are commented on by grandmother, or that your grandfather waives your punishments and still takes the kids out for ice cream. It’s hard to be hardline and have strict personal parenting rules and dynamics in an extended family. Suddenly the whole family seems to adopt their own version of a parenting role.

3. The home is always full of visitors.

Extended families spend a lot of time visiting each other, and then, of course, each member of the family has visitors too. Extended family homes always seem to be lively and busy – with people chatting, having tea, playing games, and generally spending time together. If you like a quiet home, you aren’t going to get it with an extended family. If you’re up for a social gathering any day of the week, an extended family atmosphere might not upset you much.

4. Over familiarity breeds contempt.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” …have you heard that one before? That’s quite an old proverb, isn’t it? And it’s oh-so-true. The concept is described as having so much knowledge or having spent so much time with someone that you actually lose your respect for that person. It can lead to feelings of contempt or resentment.

5. Privacy is a luxury.

In a busy home with so many people coming and going, you aren’t going to have much time for privacy. Just want to shave your legs and floss your teeth? Good luck finding time undisturbed to do that. Privacy isn’t easy when an extended family is concerned.

6. Being confused for your cousin/brother/sister.

It’s common for extended families with a lot of kids (of similar ages running around) to get a bit confusing. Grandmother might call you by your brother or cousin’s name…and there’s nothing you can do about it!

7. Getting out of the house or saying goodbye takes far longer than necessary.

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When you want to go out to meet friends or escape from a family function, there’s the whole process of the “goodbye”. Of course, it would be rude to leave without greeting everyone, so you need to do the rounds. Minutes can pass. Actually, if you encounter chatty aunts, it might even take quite some time! If you are in an extended family, you might have to start saying goodbye with some anticipation before you have to leave. 

8. Small arguments and spats become big family dramas and scandals.

If you have an argument with your sibling about it and a family member catches wind and interjects, chances are that the entire argument can get out of control. Before you know it, the fight is a huge deal, a big thing… a massive family drama. And yes, you guessed it; everybody knows about it and is more than willing to weigh in on it.

9. Your life decisions may be harshly judged.

It’s easier to make confident decisions for your life if you are in a small, nucleus family. When extended family is involved, you can expect a group of people, each with their own interests and prejudices, to judge your decisions and try to offer you alternative options. This can leave you feeling judged and can also tarnish your self-esteem and confidence.

10. It’s hard to get a word in.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a group of people who are always passionate about having their own say? Well, with an extended family, that is always the case. Expect to feel a lot of tension rising as you try to get a word in…if you ever do!

11. There’s a lot of pressure involved in introducing a significant other.

Have a new boyfriend or girlfriend? Uh-oh, you have a very daunting introduction to do. It’s hard enough introducing a new partner to a small family as it is nerve-wracking for the new partner. Now imagine an entire family staring at said new partner, asking questions, and being just as generally raucous as usual. Ouch!

12. Events, parties, and celebrations cost a LOT (big guest lists).

There’s no such thing as a cheap birthday party for the kids or your parents when there’s an extended family involved. Suddenly a birthday party costs hundreds of dollars in décor, food, and entertainment. Guest lists for celebrations and events are long with extended families. 

13. Time spent at the kids’ table.

Growing up in an extended family can be quite frustrating for kids who are transitioning into their teen years, or from their teens and into adulthood. Most extended families know all about the “kids” tables at events and family gatherings. It’s the table where all the little kids are seated, away from the adults. As kids get older, due to space issues, they often have to spend a few more years or odd events at the kids’ table. And let’s face it; this is never fun. 

14. More family functions/gatherings/celebrations than is normal.

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With extended families, family gatherings seem to be the main form of entertainment and socializing. If you aren’t too keen on gatherings at every turn, you might not enjoy an extended family having breakfasts, movie nights, birthday parties, get-togethers, and more. It can get quite exhausting, especially if you have a life outside of the family. 

15. There’s always a fight for the bathroom. 

Unless you live in a very big house with several bathrooms, having an extended family probably means that the bathroom is always occupied. It gets even worse when you have more family and friends all visiting at the same time. This can become quite frustrating and uncomfortable. A drawback of an extended family indeed!

All in all

Being part of an extended family can present a number of uncomfortable disadvantages to your life, but it’s also good to remember that you have an entire force of people on your side for your entire life. The drawbacks are many, yes, but so are the advantages. Stay positive if you’re in a big extended family and look for the good reasons to stay part of it!

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.