Giving Voice to the Silence of Family Estrangement: Comparing Reasons of Estranged Parents and Adult Children in a Nonmatched Sample

Kristen Carr, Amanda Holman, Jenna Abetz, Jody Koenig Kellas, Elizabeth Vagnoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


This study investigated 898 parents’ and adult children’s reasons for estrangement in light of research on interpersonal attributions and the relational consequences of perspective-taking. Three primary categories emerged: estrangement resulted from intrafamily, interfamily, or intrapersonal issues. Within each category, the frequency of parents’ and children’s reasons for estrangement differed significantly from each other. Parents reported that their primary reason for becoming estranged stemmed from their children’s objectionable relationships or sense of entitlement, whereas adult children most frequently attributed their estrangement to their parents’ toxic behavior or feeling unsupported and unaccepted. Parents also reported that they were unsure of the reason for their estrangement significantly more often than did children. Examining estrangement from the perspective of both parents and adult children offers potential avenues for family reconciliation and future communication research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-140
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication

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