Family Estrangement occurs when there is a temporary or permanent loss of a previously existing relationship between family members. It comes through physical/emotional distancing with little or no communication between the individuals involved.
There is little research about family estrangement although it is more common than we think. A 2014 study in the UK found out that: 1) at least 5 million people have made a choice to be no longer in contact with a family member; 2) 1 in 5 British people are directly affected by family estrangement; 3) 27% of the people surveyed said they know somebody who has cut contact with their family. Therefore, almost a third of UK population are either familiar or have experienced family estrangement. Moreover, a researcher in US found out that 1 in 10 mothers do not have a relationship with at least one of their adult children.
There are many factors that may lead to family estrangement, such as:
1. Emotional or physical abuse and neglect; 2. Differing expectations about family roles;
3. Differences in personalities and one’s values; 4. Mental illness or addiction;
5. Social support (in countries with robust welfare systems, people need their families less);
6. Education (higher education levels in adult children are associated with higher rates of conflict);
7. Race (minority families tend to co-reside more); 8. Sexuality (disapproval of one’s sexuality);
Ø Have you ever experienced family estrangement (or know someone in your family who have)? How did you feel about it? What was the reason of it?
Ø Does society accept family estrangement?
Ø Why is there a stigma surrounding family estrangement?
Ø Should estrangement between two family members be eventually “fixed” or there are occasions when it is better to cut the contact permanently?