Why isn't it

Eine schreckliche nette Familie

? I suspect it has to do with the adjective/adverb dualism, but even then I can't make sense of it.

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The schrecklich in this sentence is describing the nette. So yes, you were right, the adjective/adverb dualism is the cause.

The schrecklich here indicates that they're awfully nice, or maybe even shockingly nice. It would be a lot more clear if we had more context.

Eine schreckliche, nette Familie

This sentence, note the comma, would mean that the family is both schrecklich and nett.

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