estranged adult child and parent

The Complexities of Adult Child-Parent Estrangement: Insights from the Calling Home Podcast

January 18, 2024

Adult child-parent estrangement is often a result of complex and nuanced factors, not just abuse.

Exploring the Themes of Adult Child-Parent Estrangement

The Complexity of Abuse and Emotional Neglect

One prevalent theme in adult child-parent estrangement is the uncertainty surrounding abuse. Many adult children express doubts about whether their experiences can be classified as abuse, often due to their parents' denial or dismissal of emotional neglect or emotional abuse. Whitney Goodman, host of the Calling Home Podcast, highlights that not all estranged adult children claim abuse as the sole reason for their estrangement. This challenges the common assumption that estrangement is solely a response to abuse. Instead, it suggests that there are various factors at play in these complex relationships.

Narcissism and Emotional Immaturity

Another significant theme that emerges from the podcast is the presence of narcissism and emotional immaturity in parents. Adult children describe their parents as unable to consider their perspective, unwilling to change their views, and lacking the ability to tolerate nuance. This pattern of behavior often leads to a breakdown in communication and a sense of being unheard or invalidated. The inability of parents to step outside of themselves and empathize with their adult children's experiences can contribute to the decision to become estranged.

Boundary Violations and Denial of Problems

Boundary violations and the denial of problems within the family are also common themes in adult child-parent estrangement. Adult children often express frustration at their parents' refusal to acknowledge or address issues that have caused them pain or distress. Parents may dismiss or ignore problems, opting for a "forgive and forget" mentality that fails to address the underlying issues. This lack of accountability and unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue can strain the relationship and lead to estrangement.

Religion, Politics, and Identity Acceptance

Religion, politics, and the acceptance of an adult child's identity are additional factors that contribute to estrangement. Adult children report instances where parents refuse to accept their religious beliefs, political affiliations, or sexual orientation. This refusal to accept and respect their adult children's choices and identities can create significant tension and ultimately lead to estrangement. The inability to find common ground or hold space for differing beliefs can strain the parent-child relationship.

The Desire for Apology and Changed Behavior

When asked about potential ways to mend the relationship, the majority of adult children expressed a desire for an apology and changed behavior from their parents. This highlights the importance of accountability and growth in repairing strained relationships. Adult children are not necessarily seeking to permanently cut off their parents, but rather to see genuine efforts to address past issues and create healthier dynamics. Apologies, therapy, and changed behavior were identified as potential pathways to reconciliation.


The Calling Home Podcast sheds light on the complexities of adult child-parent estrangement, challenging the notion that abuse is the sole cause. Themes such as emotional immaturity, boundary violations, denial of problems, and the refusal to accept an adult child's identity all contribute to strained relationships. The desire for an apology and changed behavior emerges as a common thread among estranged adult children, indicating that reconciliation is possible with genuine efforts from parents. By understanding these themes and working towards healthier dynamics, families can strive to mend and prevent further estrangement.

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