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Scott severed all ties with his parents in 2019 after a contentious Skype session regarding racial issues. According to him, his mother expressed her resentment at him for supporting a civil rights activist on social media by saying “a bunch of really nasty racial things” in front of his seven-year-old kid.
“There was very much a parental emotion like ‘you can’t say that in front of my child, that’s not how we’re going to raise our kids,'” says the father-of-two from Northern Europe.
The last straw, according to Scott, was when his father attempted to defend his mother’s position in an email that contained a link to a white nationalist video. He was perplexed that his parents couldn’t see the reality of individuals being victimized because of their ethnicity, particularly considering his own simpsons family photo history. “‘This is absurd; you’re Jewish,’ I said. ‘Many members of our family were murdered in Auschwitz.
Scott and his parents have previously disagreed on moral principles. However, that was the final time he decided to visit or talk to them. Despite a lack of concrete evidence, therapists, psychologists, and sociologists believe that this type of purposeful parent-child ‘break-up’ is on the rise in Western countries.
The statement “I’m done” with a family member is a potent one
He conducted a statewide poll for his 2020 book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them after realizing there were few substantial studies of family alienation. According to the poll, one in every four Americans is alienated from another relative. According to similar studies for the British estrangement organization Stand Alone, the condition affects one in every five families in the UK, while academic researchers and therapists in Australia and Canada similarly report a “hidden pandemic” of family break-ups.
The estrangement between parents and adult children appears to be rising or at least is being discussed more and more, which appears to be the result of a complicated web of cultural and psychological variables. Additionally, there are many concerns regarding the trend’s effects on both people and society.
Previous experiences and current values
Value clashes, as experienced by Scott and his parents, are also considered to play an impact. According to research released in October by Coleman and the University of Wisconsin, more than one in every three moms with alienated children noted value-based arguments. Pillemer’s latest study has also emphasized value differences as a “key component” in estrangements, with disputes stemming from “problems such as same-sex preference, religious differences or choosing different lifestyles”.
According to Joshua Coleman, a psychologist and the author of The Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict, the majority of splits between a parent and an adult child—although research is limited—tend to be started by the kid.
Parental abuse, whether emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse in the past or present, is among the most frequent causes of this. Another common factor is divorce, which may have a variety of effects, such as adult children “taking sides” or new family members, such as stepparents or stepsiblings, who can exacerbate conflicts over “financial and emotional resources.”
Both analysts feel that heightened political and cultural polarisation in recent years has had a role in this. In the United States, an Ipsos poll found a rise in family rifts following the 2016 election, while research from Stanford University in 2012 found that a larger proportion of parents could be unhappy if their children married someone from a different political party.
Which was far less true a decade earlier. According to a recent UK research, one in every ten people had a falling out with a family over Brexit. “These findings show how identity has become a significantly stronger driver of who we choose to remain near or let go,” Coleman adds.
The element of mental health
Experts feel that our rising understanding of mental health and the negative effects of toxic or violent family ties on our well-being is having an effect on alienation.
Sam, a British woman in her thirties, claims to have come from a tumultuous home where both parents were strong drinkers. She claims that she severed all relations with her parents after seeing her father verbally abuse her six-year-old cousin during a funeral. She says she generally ceased communicating with her parents as soon as she left for college.
She was able to comprehend the psychological effects of her own experiences and see them as “more than just lousy parenting” with the aid of counseling. I was still hurt even though I wasn’t struck.
Individualism is on the increase
Coleman claims that as society has become more “individualistic,” we have also placed a greater emphasis on our own personal well-being. In comparison to past generations, many of us rely on family members significantly less.
Who we choose to spend time with is based on our identities and desires for growth rather than on survival or necessity, he says, “since we don’t have a family member to help us or intend to inherit the family farm. “Today, only the desire for that link keeps an adult child connected to a parent.”
People are becoming increasingly adept at setting their own limits and refusing requests from others, says Sam.
Increased options to live and work in separate towns or even countries from our adult families might also aid in the breakdown of parental relationships by simply adding physical distance.
The effects of distance
There are significant benefits for many alienated adult children who have removed themselves from what they perceive to be harmful parental connections. However, Pillemer contends that while alienation frequently results in better mental health and a sense of enhanced independence, it can also result in emotions of instability, embarrassment, and stress.
“In addition, people lose the practical benefits of belonging to a family, such as monetary assistance and a sense of belonging to a secure group of people who know each other well.”
Attempting to mend divisions?
With political divisions at the forefront in many nations and increased individualism in cultures all over the world, many observers believe the parent-child ‘break-up’ trend will continue.
He might be able to make amends with his own parents, but only if they admit to having been prejudiced. The adage “blood is thicker than water” is fine if you have a cool family, but it’s just impossible if you’re surrounded by poisonous individuals.