What are Generational Cycles, and Why Do They Matter?

By Lauren Hall
October 31, 2023

The phrases “generational cycle” and “cycle breaker” have recently become large parts of the conversation about family health. Searches for “generational cycle breaker” have increased by 180% in the past year on platforms like Google and YouTube.

What is a “generational cycle?”

  • In the simplest form, it’s what one generation passes on to the next.
  • What gets passed on can be positive/healthy and negative/unhealthy. 
  • In a relationship context, it includes traits, habits, attitudes, and behavior patterns.
  • “Generational cycle” draws attention to the impact parents and caregivers have on children.

We’ve all recognized this dynamic with physical qualities and attributes. “She has her father’s eyes.” But these dynamics also impact psychological, emotional, relational, and familial attributes and qualities.

What is a “cycle breaker?”

  • Someone who recognizes they have inherited unhealthy qualities and attributes from their upbringing and environment.
  • These qualities and attributes may be demonstrated in their thoughts, emotions, and relationships with others, particularly in the family they have created.
  • A “cycle breaker” recognizes the unhealthy things they have inherited and deliberately acts to avoid passing these behaviors on to their children. They work to break the cycle.

It might help to think about baggage. There may have been substance abuse, poor communication patterns, destructive reactions to conflict, explosive anger, or simply hopelessness that has been a heavy part of the “baggage” passed down for multiple generations. 

We don’t know how many people have been affected by this harmful baggage. We do know it’s possible to put that baggage down and pass on something healthy and hopeful to the next generation.

This is why First Things First exists.

Our mission is to provide resources that guide people in their relationships so they can live better lives. Our vision is for every family to have healthy relationship skills to pass down from generation to generation.

We’ve been in pursuit of this vision for the last 26 years. There are three key factors in breaking and creating generational cycles.

  1. Even though they struggle under their weight, individuals are often unable to see the baggage they have inherited. Some outside influence– a mentor, spiritual guide, counselor, or coach –needs to come alongside them. People in these roles can help individuals identify and release their inherited baggage and pick up tools to help them build healthy relationships and enjoy a better life.
  1. Stopping negative generational cycles and starting new, healthy cycles is difficult. It’s a process. Hope, healing, and developing new thought patterns take time. Individuals need to accept and make peace with what was before they can embrace what could be. Plus, it’s all too easy to fall back into old patterns of dysfunctional behavior when it’s all you’ve ever known.
  1. Unhealthy relationships perpetuate negative generational cycles. It requires healthy relationships to create positive generational cycles. 

The COVID-19 pandemic generated a surge of interest in family dynamics and mental and relational health. This makes sense. Most of us were spending more time together than ever before. Dysfunction in homes was heightened by the loss of normal routines and stability. Looming uncertainty took a huge toll on individuals and families. No demographic was spared. 

If there was any silver lining, it was the increased awareness of necessary support systems to help families. Professionals and individuals alike were prompted to understand generational cycles. 

This year, First Things First is beginning a new three-year strategic plan to further our vision. Facilitating relationship education in our community is still the main focus of our organization, but we are expanding our collaborative partnerships and services to include coaching, case management, and access to free or reduced therapy. 

Was This Helpful?

Thoughts? Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *