With roughly 10 percent of Americans estranged from a parent or child, you very likely know someone in your own life with parental problems.
Therapists and researchers believe that rifts in families are becoming more common, particularly with adult children cutting contact with one or both parents.
Simone Bose is a relationship therapist based in London. She deals with family issues every day in her practice, including estrangement, with her clients coming from a range of backgrounds and circumstances.
According to Bose, these are the top reasons why adult children cut off their parents:
- Toxic behavior
- Difference in values
- A lack of support
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Failure to empathize
- Changing times
Dealing With Toxic Behavior From Your Parents
Last year, researchers at Ohio State University asked over 1,000 estranged mothers the reasons they believed their adult children had cut contact. Almost 80 percent felt that a third party, such as the other parent, a relative or their child's partner, was to blame.
Studies suggest that parents and adult children rarely agree on the reasons for the rift, with children more likely to report toxic behavior—such as a lack of empathy, refusing to respect boundaries, and being highly critical or malicious—as the reason for cutting a parent out of their lives.
A 2015 study by the University of Cambridge revealed that past actions could be just as triggering for adult children as current behavior. Although few people would question someone's decision to cut off a parent due to physical or sexual abuse, researchers found that emotional abuse was the most common reason participants distanced themselves.
77 percent of those surveyed said said emotional abuse during childhood was the reason they stopped contacting their mother, as did 59 percent of those estranged from their fathers.
In comparison, only 26 percent of estranged parents blamed emotional abuse for a rift with their daughter, with no respondents believing emotional abuse caused an estrangement with their son.
Parents With Differences In Values To You
Mismatched expectations regarding roles and relationships can split families, as can personality clashes.
Bose said: "I've seen couples where a parent or in-law is very intrusive or whose values are offensive, and this starts to impact on their own parenting and the values they want to give their kids.
"They might start to see this person as toxic."
Parents That Never Support You
It might not be as obvious as physical or sexual abuse, but neglect or failure to support their adult children's life choices—both in the past and present—can led to estrangement. Even if all of their basic needs were met during childhood, ignoring a child's emotional needs can lead to mental health issues, substance abuse, emotional trauma and difficulty coping as an adult.
Parents That Fail To Empathize With You
They say there are two sides to every story, and it's not uncommon for adult children and parents to disagree on the past. However, failure to acknowledge how their child feels can lead to anger or resentment.
Only 18 percent of the mothers in the Ohio study believed the estrangement was their fault, while many parents taking part in a 2015 study by the University of Nebraska blamed their child's "entitlement" for the rift rather than their own actions.
"It can be hard for people to acknowledge that they haven't been a good parent," said Bose.