Family Estrangement Common But Often Hidden

As the season for gatherings continues and social media is flooded with joyful scenes of children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles enjoying fall food and fun, many will feel the sting of estrangement from their families.

This distancing between family members as a result of conflict or an intense emotional event can be a source of great pain.   And as parents or grandparents age, a lack of physical or emotional contact with family can cause social withdrawal stemming from a perceived stigma surrounding family estrangement.   It’s easier sometimes to pull away than explain why you may not have plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas or other occasions when families usually gather.

But despite romantic ideas that blood is thicker than water, many families have one or more members that don’t speak or only carry on a superficial relationship with no real emotional connection.  A chasm between siblings can occur as a result of the handling of a parent’s estate following death or between children and parents due to unresolved childhood issues, divorce or remarriage.

According to Psychology Today, very little research is available about estranged family members but a 2013 study published in the Journal of Women and Social Work found that 27 per cent of adults children in the United States reported being detached from their father and 7 per cent from their mother.  And a German study found that more than 10 per cent of adults over the age of 40 reported family conflict between generations and half of those had little or no contact with the other family member.

With very few adults willing to talk about family estrangement, the number of those who are cut off from family, reported in the few studies available, are likely a small representation of reality.  But while family estrangement can be extremely complicated, there is hope for reconciliation.  To learn more about adults who experience rifts between family members, visit .