"I'm finally allowed to be me": Parent-Child Estrangement and Psychological Wellbeing

Audrey Linden, Elizabeth Sillence

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Estrangement from a family member is characterised by lack of trust and emotional intimacy, and often includes ceased communication and contact. Existing estrangement research suggests adult children report three main reasons for estrangement from a parent: abuse, poor parenting and betrayal. However, research into estrangement and experiences of psychological wellbeing is sparse. This study used semi-structured interviews to explore this with 7 female participants with experiences of parental maltreatment, aged 24–37. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis resulted in 4 main themes: experiences of contact; gaining agency; navigating relationships; and navigating estrangement. Results suggest estrangement can be experienced both positively and negatively in terms of psychological wellbeing. Positive experiences provide insight into maintenance of estrangement, and suggest processes of benefit-finding following stressful life events can be applicable to estrangement. Practice implications for those working with adult children include considering reasons for estrangement, and facilitating sense-making to assist with coming to terms with estrangement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-341
Number of pages17
JournalFamilies, Relationships and Societies
Issue number2
Early online date4 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


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