I just read a troubling article in The Economist: “How many American children have cut contact with their parents?”
Quite a few: “. . . Familial estrangement seems to be widespread in America. The first large-scale nationwide survey, recently conducted by Cornell University, found that 27 percent of adult Americans are estranged from a close family member.”
The actual percentage is likely higher, researchers say, because relatives who are cut off are likely to feel shame and have difficulty admitting the situation.
The most common family fracture is children cutting off their parents. There are a number of reasons. First, parents who divorce are more often cut off by children, with the father being the more common one be knifed. Another reason is that the rise in individualism and personal fulfillment has taken its toll over filial duty. Children who grew up in abusive situations are naturally less likely to stick with their families as they become adults. Therapy, too, often emphasizes the role family dysfunction plays in personal unhappiness.
The research suggests that the habit of cutting off relatives is likely to spread in families. Expect more of this trend. Most immediately, for parents who are cut off, expect a lonelier old age. You might have children but they might not want much to do with you.
What all this makes me realize is how lucky I am. My family is the most important thing in my life. These are my people. I love my partner and children and they love me. I’m going to do everything within my power to keep it that way.