Haven't Talked to a Family Member in Years? You're Not Alone

Jan 29, 2016

Many people have stories about a long-lost family member or a family member who doesn’t hang around a whole lot. It’s not talked about much, but according to a study from Iowa State University, family estrangement is a lot more common that previously thought.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with a listener who hasn’t spoken to her brother in nearly a decade.

Sometimes the people in your family are toxic people, and you have to make choices for yourself. It's hard. - Earl from Des Moines, who called into the show

“I liken it to the stages of grief, so I remember when I first received that note from him at Christmas. I was furious, then I was sad, then sort of came acceptance. And at this point, I reckon that if someone doesn’t want to have a relationship with me, so be it. You reach a certain point in your life, and you know, it’s just not worth it anymore,” she says about her relationship with her brother.

Megan Giligan, lead author of a recent study on child estrangement, and Volker Thomas, a professor of couple and family therapy at the University of Iowa, also join the conversation.

According to Giligan’s work, about 1 in 10 people have an estranged family member.

“We found that this happened when someone violated a family norm,” Giligan explains. “What was really interesting to us is that it had nothing to do with societal norm violation. It was when a child did something that violated the mother’s values or belief.”