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How Long Does Parent-Child Estrangement Usually Last? 4 Determining Factors

how long does parent child estrangement usually last

Becoming a parent is a demanding job. As your child ages and gets into adulthood, the relationship changes though. A parent’s relationship with their adult children can change and become estranged. The most common form of parent-child estrangement is the result of children abandoning their parents. But what factors can explain this and how long does this parent-child estrangement last?

Parent-Child Estrangement: What do parents need to know when adult children cut them off?
Nine years, average. Five-plus years for mothers, seven-plus for fathers. Less than five years, in most cases. All of these timelines have appeared in various research studies on estrangement between parents and adult children. None is definitive.

How Long Your Estrangement From Your Child Lasts Will Depend On Several Factors.

And while only one of these is within your control, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Factor 1: Your Child

Your child’s temperament and circumstances will affect the length of estrangement. Let’s look at each of these.


If your child is particularly soft-hearted or family-oriented, she’s more likely to look for reasons to reconcile. If he’s particularly stubborn, independent, or apt to hold grudges, he’s a harder case.

How well your child’s personality meshes with yours is another element that appears in the “temperament” column.


Your child’s circumstances play a larger role than you might think in how long the estrangement will last.

Busy young adults can easily put troubled relationships with parents on the back burner. They don’t have extra time or energy to spend working through things with people who remind them of the past. They’re naturally oriented towards the future⁠—new relationships, careers, living situations, opportunities, etc.

What might have taken a good, long conversation or two to work through could take months or years to resolve. This is because of the fact that adults’ priorities typically don’t include moving “backwards,” i.e., closer to parents. Even if they love you, building an independent life takes precedence for most healthy young people.

Related: Why You MUST Cut Ties With A Toxic Family Member

Factor 2: Pressure

You may be surprised to hear this, but estranged adult children experience near-constant pressure to reconcile with their parents. There are two separate types of pressure on your child.

Social Pressure

Your child lives in a society that values family. Socially speaking, it will never be “comfortable” for your child to be estranged from you. Pressure to reconcile may come from your child’s spouse, in-laws, friends, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances.

When people find out your child doesn’t talk to you, many will encourage them to reconcile. It’s common for people to be uncomfortable when others cut off their parents. These folks will often make your child feel judged as ungrateful or unfeeling.

Internal Pressure

There’s often uncertainty around estrangement, even in those who initiate it. “Am I a bad daughter?” “Was I asking too much of my parents?” “Am I right to stay away?” Far from being on a power trip, estrangers are often plagued by insecurity surrounding their decision.

For many, it would be easier to reconcile and not have to struggle with these thoughts. The longer it goes on, the more exhausting this can be.

Related: Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It, And Who Does It?

Factor 3: Time

The passage of time changes everything. Time can heal, or at least soothe old wounds. It can usher in perspective as circumstances change and tables turn. There are dozens of wise old sayings about this. Suffice it to say, it’s impossible to step into the same river twice.

You and your child will both be different tomorrow than you were yesterday. And the more tomorrow pass, the more room there is for change.

Anger may have flared between you and your child in the past. But in time, memories will start to fade around the edges. Anger will ease off and reveal the hurt feelings beneath. Again: Perspectives can and do shift.

All of this happens only as time passes. You can go ahead and curse time for being a thief. But also remember to celebrate it as a helpful friend. I’ve heard of estrangements finally ending after more than 30 years. Time can work miracles.

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Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist specializing in supporting parents unwillingly estranged from their adult children. She is the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them and Reconnecting with Your Estranged Adult Child. She's the founder and host of The Reconnection Club, an online school for parents of estranged adult children. Her podcast for parents is called The The Reconnection Club Podcast. As an expert on relationships and communication, she's been featured in hundreds of media outlets including Forbes, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company. Tina holds a master's degree in counseling psychology and is licensed as an LPC in Colorado and Oregon. She offers consulting and training all over the world.View Author posts