Sometimes in families it’s hard to decipher when teasing is playful or crosses the line. On the one hand it promotes joyful laughter, on the other hand, it can cause discomfort and could create an “unsafe” environment where dysfunction and disrespect is present.
Every family has a distinct “culture” or relational style regarding hierarchy, boundaries, communication, and humor. The family dynamics help facilitate and reinforce the culture. Because each family member is so unique, an individual’s reaction or integration of the “family culture” varies from person to person.
I have several patients who have expressed that teasing in their families is typical and can get “brutal” at times. One teen female describes how she gets lower grades than her brother and tends to be generally anxious. Her parents often joke that she’s “not known for her brains, but rather her ability to work a room” because she’s sophisticated socially. These statements profoundly hurt her, especially because she puts a lot of effort into her academics and generally struggles in school because of an executive functioning challenge.