Family estrangement—a concept similar to emotional cutoff in Bowen family systems theory—is the unsatisfactory physical or emotional distancing between at least two family members. It is attributed to a number of biological, psychological, social, and structural factors affecting the family, including attachment disorders, incompatible values and beliefs, unfulfilled expectations, critical life events and transitions, parental alienation, and ineffective communication patterns. Family estrangement is often experienced as a considerable loss; its ambiguous nature and social disenfranchisement can contribute to significant grief responses, perceived stigma, and social isolation in some cases. The social-work profession has a role to play in raising social and political awareness of the prevalence of, contributors to, and effects of estrangement on the intergenerational family, with clinicians working to assess and address the impact of estrangement on individuals and the family system.
Priscilla Gibson and Valandra
Little attention has been paid to the role of grandparents, yet this intergenerational family role has shifted both inside and outside of the family. Social policies have pushed it into public debate on the rights of grandparents. Although traditional characteristics remain, new contemporary aspects of the role have emerged. This entry provides content on the significant factors that prompted the diversity in grandparenting and its social construction by adult children, grandchildren, and society.