27 Percent Of All People Are Estranged From A Parent — But Why?

Photo: CREATISTA, olaser | Canva
Woman looking back at estranged parents

If you’ve been reading my work, you already know that I know a lot of street kids. I mean, for a hot minute, I was a street kid myself. For those not in the know, a street kid is a person in their teens or twenties who spends most of their time on the street — often selling illegal substances, partying, or spanging for money.

It’s a society of outcasts, by outcasts. Why? Well, one thing that unites most street kids is that there are problems they are not having an easy time with. I mean, you don’t end up on the street without problems.

Street kids come in three main categories: street "orphans" who were discarded by their parents, runaways, and street kids who have a relationship with their parents but struggle with other issues.

For the longest time, I assumed that having no contact with my parents was primarily something that only happened to people in my scene. You know, like The Island of Rejected Toys or something.

It was easy to assume that everyone else had that Leave It To Beaver lifestyle I envied growing up. I mean, that’s what it looked like in the rich, upper-class area I grew up in — at least, for the most part.

RELATED: 7 Harsh Signs It’s Time To Go No-Contact With Your Family Member

As it turns out, going no-contact with parents is now more common than ever before.

Oh, how things have changed in the 30 years I’ve been alive. As a child, divorce was something taboo in my area. People would whisper about a mom saying, "Oh, you know, she’s divorced. Her kids are going to be screwed up."

Divorce is the least of our problems now. If you were feeling like the only person not invited to your family’s barbecue, don’t be too upset. One study suggested that as many as 27 percent of all people are estranged from one or both of their parents.

That’s one out of every four friends you have.

Estrangement has never been this common, and frankly, it wouldn’t shock me if this number grows dramatically in the next couple of years. Here’s why we’re in a perfect storm of family estrangement…

The biggest issue that sparked it is a newfound love of self-respect.

In more traditional societies, there are certain things you just don’t do. Number one, with a bullet, is walking away from family — especially permanently. It’s not just verboten. It’s seen as a failure on your part.

The United States was the same way up until recently. We changed. As our society started to question the status quo, we stopped buying into collectivism in favor of individualism.

In other words, we started to put our needs first. We, as a society, have started to work towards asking, "Do the people in my life nurture me, or do they harm me?"

People started to realize that there’s a certain point where relationships stop being worth keeping, even if they are a brother, sister, or parent. We began to (rightfully) ask why we’re expected to make nice to people who treat us poorly.

As the internet started to allow people to talk about taboo topics, people began to openly discuss the things that happened to them. That made a lot of stigma around going no-contact with family members slowly vanish.

There’s a certain point where you have to hang up the phone on people for your own health, or even for your own future’s sake. It’s something many street kids had to learn the hard way, even during times when being a "stray" was more stigmatized.

RELATED: How To Use The 'No Contact Rule' And Why It's (Pretty Much) Guaranteed To Work

In most cases, the no contact that happens would not have happened prior due to social pressure.

I have heard a lot of different stories about what life was like "back then," plus seen a lot of awful aftermath from it. Some of the stories I’ve seen and heard stuck with me.

One thing that always struck me was the family portraits I saw growing up. I always liked looking at them. While most people in my childhood had an idyllic background, there was one that truly showed how ugly crap gets underneath the surface. I’m going to call them the Hanson* family (not their real name).

The Hansons were a socialite crowd, one not unused to hanging out with famous rock stars, financiers, and painters. Like many other old money types, they had the yacht club membership, invitations to the beach club that now costs $40,000 a year, and several timeshares.

They also were, without a doubt, the most dysfunctional family I have ever seen behind closed doors. Anything you could imagine that could happen, did — violence, substance use, narcissistic rage …Yep. It was bad.

If you know the Hansons, you heard the stories. Or worse, you would see it happen to the kids in the family. Despite everything, they still somehow managed to squeak out a pretty veneer to "the people who mattered."

Incidentally, they always had the nicest, most pristine family photos. They looked like a model family in each one. If you saw those stock photos that come with frames, then you already would get the idea of what they looked like — loving, doting, and united.

Behind closed doors, you could hear the screams. Once in a while, you’d have an ambulance covertly show up at their place. Sometimes, the kids would just vanish for a while.

And yet … to this day, they all still live under the same roof, in the same stately-looking mansion that they did back when I was a kid. None of them will move out. The kids stay by Mother Dearest’s side, the husband is still married to his wife, though he lives in their guest house.

Why do they stay together? Well, a lot of it is because the now-adult children have been manipulated by the narcissistic mother. Another large part of it is because they are the same crowd that views going no-contact as a moral failing.

Regardless, the result is still the same.

RELATED: Woman Tells People With Adult Children Who Don't Speak To Them That They Are At Fault — 'You Had One Job & You Failed At It'

Whenever I wonder if no contact and estrangement are a bad thing, I think about the Hansons.

You know, people assume that being estranged from a family member or a former in-law is a bad thing. It usually isn’t. There are only so many times a person can be abused or neglected before they realize they aren’t benefiting from a relationship.

The now-grown children of the Hanson family are broken, irreparably so. One is in and out of psych wards. The other can’t hold a job down if it was the last thing he'd do. Yet another has all but become a total shut-in, and hasn’t left the house in years.

I can tell you that they will probably never marry. They will never have a child they will gain custody of if they can even find a willing person to sleep with. Their lives are ruined.

Not for nothing, but there have been multiple people who have begged the kids to run for it. There have been people, including in CPS, who have suggested they get out of there once they turned 18. People warned them.

I honestly believe that had they just up and left at 18, they would be much better off. They may not be totally well, but they would have had a job. They might have been able to have families of their own or at least pets they didn’t sodomize.

The rallying cry of "But they’re family!" has ruined the Hanson kids’ lives. I’m fairly sure of it.

If you’re no contact with family, understand that the people worth your time will get it.

At first glance, the estrangement statistic seems dire. People want to paint it as "families being ripped apart" and "the dissolution of an institution." But, are these families really being ripped apart? To me, it doesn’t seem so.

No, a lot of the choices to go no-contact are akin to a person grabbing a lifesaver off a floundering ship. It’s the smart thing to do if you’re being abused, hurt, neglected, or used.

Not sure if you’ve heard this yet, but your presence is a privilege, not a right. Don’t let people abuse that privilege. You owe it to yourself to surround yourself with decent folks.

If other people can’t see that, they probably don’t have the empathy they should have. That’s a "them" problem, not a "you" problem. The sooner we rethink estrangement, the better off we’ll all be.

RELATED: The Sad Reason I'm Estranged From My Sister

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.