Family Estrangement

Posted on October 26, 2018

Being in a family is something so simple and essential to every human being, it is hard to imagine life without our family members being by our side. Fostering close relationships with family members bring several benefits like having positive well-being, positive self-efficacy, high self-esteem, knowing one’s self-worth, distinction and success. However, some people are part of families with issues like neglect, abuse, addiction, maltreatment or any other mental illnesses. When it gets tough trying to deal with issues as such, some children might feel that distancing themselves from their family is the best solution.

Estrangement is known as a situation when a family member makes a conscious effort to distant themselves from other family members to disrupt the relationships between them or try to avoid any interaction with them. estrangement can lead to extreme negative feelings and inability to regulate their feelings. It is a painful situation to be in as relationships which were once meaningful are broken and a shared family identity is lost. It creates uncertainty in both the adults and children in the family as they will start to question their identity and family dynamics. Doubts are generated when circumstances are ambiguous, complicated, unpredictable, when one cannot get any information and when one feels insecure about their knowledge of the situation. Relationships with family members can never end in a straightforward manner because close bonds as such are assumed to last forever.

People cope with different types of family estrangement in different ways:

1. Doubts regarding Parental love

This is related a child’s doubts about whether their parents actually loved them and felt that their parents might be incapable of love. Hence, the child copes with this doubt by coming out with external factors to convince themselves of their parents’ behavior.

2. Having an Identity crisis

This is when a child is uncertain whether he or she is a good person when they try to distant themselves from their family. Hence, the child will usually contrast themselves to their parent by justifying their own actions with various reasons.

3. Doubts regarding one’s safety

When a child is unsure whether they themselves or any of their family member is in danger. To resolve this fear, the child hides certain information from their parents or choose to observe the situation and be sure their parents are not bringing any harm to any other family members

4. Doubts about the cycle of abuse

This is when a child is unsure whether they are becoming abusive in their own relationships since they were brought up in the presence of abusive relationships. To cope with this doubt, the child restricts close relationships by not having children or decide not to be in any romantic relationship.

5. Doubts related to existing connections

A child is unsure how their need to keep a distance from people would affect their relationships with people around them. To curb this doubt, the child expresses what they want to people in their social circle, like telling people not to talk to their parents because of the distance they have created between them and their family.

Family estrangement is a situation that creates lots of uncertainty and hurt towards people. It is encouraged to seek help from psychological experts or talk about the issue with someone before deciding to distant yourself from your family.


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Child Development, Family Problems

Source material from Psychology Today


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