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Disconnection and Decision-making: Adult Children Explain Their Reasons for Estranging from Parents
This article reports on a qualitative study of adult children who were estranged from at least one parent. Twenty-six Australian participants reported a total of 40 estrangements. Of these, 23 estrangements were initiated by the participant and 16 were maintained by the participant after being initiated by the parent or occurring after a mutual lessening of contact. Participants reported three core reasons for estrangement: (i) abuse, (ii) poor parenting, and (iii) betrayal. However, estrangement was predominantly situated in long-term perceived or actual disconnection from the parent and family of origin. Most participants had engaged in cycles of estrangement and reunification, using distance to assess the relationship and attend to their own personal development and growth across time. Estrangement was generally triggered by a relatively minor incident or a more serious act of betrayal considered to have been enacted by the parent.