When Adult Children Cut Ties and Toxic Parenting Is Not To Blame

Is estrangement always the parent’s fault? The answer is yes when estrangement comes from a parent’s toxic behavior. There are many variables and influences, and judging parents always guilty is unreasonable. This article discusses When Adult Children Cut Ties and Toxic Parenting Is Not Blame. 

Parents and adult children are imperfect. While toxic behaviors can rear their head in these examples, remember that toxic parenting refers to consistent toxicity or abuse, not occasionally missing the mark.

Essentially, what all estrangement comes down to is a sense of disconnection.

In the case of estrangement, when toxic or abusive parenting is not to blame, there may be a disconnection from the adult child’s perspective that has led them to estrangement. 

Here are four common contributors to estrangement when toxic or abusive parenting is not to blame:

1. Mental Illness Or Addiction 

If your adult child is experiencing a struggle with their mental health, they might halt the relationship because of their current state of mind. Mental illness has many facets; one size does not fit all regarding mental health and how it affects relationships. The emotional struggle and pain that those with mental illness suffer are often excruciating for the parent to witness. 

Your adult child may feel uncomfortable sharing their situation with you out of embarrassment, fear of judgment, or simply because they don’t want to. Their decision might have nothing to do with your parenting and everything to do with how they can interact with the world at this point.

In some cases, someone in active addiction or a mentally ill person may not be able to be rational in regular communication. 

They may be easily irritated, triggered, or misinterpret the conversation. A lack of insight leads to tension in any relationship and may result in disconnection. It is also possible that the adult child is struggling with their sense of self and may avoid the relationship because of depression or anxiety.

2. Differences In Values 

An adult child might have differing views on the world and might not want to carry out a relationship because of it. It might have nothing to do with how you parented them growing up but merely a result of not agreeing on a fundamental level as adults. Some relationships can thrive while having differing views; others will not. 

Gender Identity and Sexuality

If the adult child does not feel that you stand in full solidarity with their choices, they may be unwilling to stay close to the parent. It is a complex topic to discuss gender identities in an ever-changing social atmosphere. The adult child might not want to explain their pre-existing or newfound expression of their gender identity or sexuality. If the parent is indifferent to the adult child’s expression, it may lead the child to believe that they do not feel valued in the way they desire and eventually estrange. Alternatively, the adult child with differing gender expression or a non-heterosexual identity may distance themselves if the parent actively displays homophobic ideals and continuously invalidates them.


Sometimes having different opinions on religion is enough to estrange. If there is an extreme religious view that the adult child disagrees with, they may choose estrangement to avoid the discomfort of not fitting into that religion’s archetype. The adult child may not like or enjoy the relationship due to the parent’s personal beliefs and choose to abandon the connection. 


Political changes could lead to difficulties within the family. The adult child might have a wildly different view on how politics should serve the community and the world. If they don’t feel aligned with their parents, it may cause a divide and misunderstanding. Political debates can become uncomfortable and exhausting, leading the adult child to avoid the relationship altogether.

Expectations and Sociological Perspectives

Family expectations are different from how it was many years ago. Families expected to stay connected through thick and thin. In our current climate, adult children decide whether to remain immersed in the family through adulthood. It is not always of the adult child’s value to stay close to the family. As painful as it is for a parent to experience the loss, the adult child chooses to separate from the family. From the adult child’s perspective, their choice should be respected and not challenged. 

3. Stress Pile-Up

Stress from everyday life might be a factor for your adult child to go towards estrangement. An adult child might be dealing with issues separate from family life. Examples may include a new job, a new home, financial problems, marital issues, unique or challenging children, etc. 

If an adult child is experiencing intense stress due to their circumstances, they may choose to sacrifice a relationship or not have the time or energy to engage with it. Stress can cause an individual to become reclusive and private. Because of this, it’s important to show grace, even though losing the connection as a parent may be painful. 

4. Pressure From Spouse

It is more common than you may think for an adult child to estrange due to having a troubled spouse. If the adult child couples with someone very insecure, they might feel threatened by their spouse’s familial relationship. Additionally, differences in family values and traditions may result in your son or daughter’s spouse pushing for separation in the family. There is a possibility of jealousy experienced by the adult child’s spouse. They will often perceive the closeness to their parents as bad or too attached. A manipulative spouse may persuade the adult child to believe they have been mistreated or has repressed memories of abuse. In his book Rules of Estrangement, Joshua Coleman adds that “the manipulative spouse is likely to inflate any of the normal slings and arrows of family life into a severe and unacceptable character flaw of the parents that can’t be tolerated.” 

Many variables contribute to estrangement and its complexities. Four common factors that may lead an adult child to estrange are mental illness/addiction, differences in values, stress pile-up, and pressure from a spouse. Each case of estrangement is different, and trying to put together all the pieces can be difficult. This article discusses When Adult Children Cut Ties and Toxic Parenting Is Not To Blame.

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