Family Estrangement

The Effects of Family Estrangement

By Lynda Gurvitz, Ph.D.

The loss of a family member to death can be devastating. However, the feelings of rejection and bewilderment that often accompanies the loss of a child, sibling or parent to estrangement causes its own unique pain. Family estrangement is defined as one or more relatives intentionally choosing to end contact because of a negative relationship. Recent research reported in an article in the New York Times indicates that it is not uncommon and may be on the rise. (1)

An article by Dr. Lucy Blake that reviewed much of the published research on family estrangement was published in the 2017 issue of the Journal of Family Theory. This article found that the consequences of involuntary estrangement from a parent or child include the following:

  • -Experiencing reduced levels of psychological well being
  • -Feelings of loss
  • -Experiences and/or perceptions of stigma (2)

A 2015 online survey of 807 individuals who self-identify as estranged from one or more family members was done by Dr. Blake and collaborators sponsored by the University of Cambridge, England (3). The purpose of the survey was to identify common experiences among these individuals. They identified the following factors as contributing to relationship breakdown:

  • Women experiencing family estrangement-Emotional abuse and neglect
  • -Clashes of personality and values
  • -Mismatched expectations about family roles and relationships
  • -Mental health/substance abuse issues
  • -Issues related to in-laws
  • -Issues related to marriage and divorce
  • -Traumatic event
  • -Family life cycle event gone wrong

This survey also investigated who respondents turned to for help and support. The largest number, 78%, turned to counsellors and therapists.  54% of these people found mental health providers very helpful and 34% found them somewhat helpful.

Family Psychology Associates Can Help With Family Estrangement and More

The mental health professionals at Family Psychology Associates understand your concerns and are trained to provide help to those struggling with  estrangement. Dr. Gurvitz has specialized training in mediation with estranged family members and is starting a support group. Please call our office to set up an appointment with Dr. Gurvitz or one of our other therapists. We also offer many other types of mental health services including relationship counseling, family therapy or older adults and seniors and caregiver support.  For our Safety Harbor office please call (727) 725-8820 and for our Trinity office call (727) 203-3770.


  1. Catherine St. Louis, “Debunking Myths About Estrangement,” The New York Times. December 20, 2017
  2. Blake, Lucy, “Parents and Children Who Are Estranged in Adulthood: A Review and Discussion of the Literature,” Journal of Family Theory and Research.Vol. 9, Issue 4, 2015.
  3. Blake, Lucy; Bland, Becca; and Golombock, Susan. HIDDEN VOICES: FAMILY ESTRANGEMENT IN ADULTHOOD. University of Cambridge Institute for Family Research, 2015.