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date: 29 April 2017

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: conflict, cutoff, emotional cutoff, estrangement, family breakdown, intergenerational family

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