6 Experts Reveal The Most Common Reasons Parents And Their Adult Children Don't Get Along

As kids grow up , what they need from their parents changes and both parties must adjust.

adult woman and her mother disagreeing Fizkes - Shutterstock

As parents, we come with many expectations of what the kids we put our hearts and souls into will turn out to be.

Oftentimes, when they fail to meet those expectations, we find ourselves at odds with them, constantly embroiled in conflict or completely disconnected.

On our children’s part, as they move through adolescence and approach adulthood, they long for individuality and autonomy.

They no longer want to do things that please us, but what makes them happy. The constant push and pull between our desires and theirs are what manifests as an inability to get along with each other when they become adults.


A 2020 study found that 1 in 4 adults are estranged from their parents. The reasons include things like toxic behavior, differences in values, a lack of support, and abuse. Most of those estrangements were initiated by the child.

But familial relationships are complicated and there a several reasons a parent and child might not get along. Six experts have given their insight as to the most common reasons a mother or father might stay in conflict with their adult child.


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Here, six Yourtango experts the most common reasons parents and their adult children don't get along:

1. The generational gap

"One primary reason parents and adult children often struggle to maintain a harmonious relationship is the generation gap. This gap reflects the distinct experiences, values, and expectations shaped by different eras. Parents have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom gained from their life journey, while adult children bring fresh perspectives influenced by modern society. These contrasting viewpoints can sometimes create friction, misunderstandings, and a sense of disconnection.

Nurturing a positive relationship requires open-mindedness, empathy, and genuine efforts to bridge this generation gap with understanding, respect, and appreciation for each other's unique perspectives and experiences. By embracing empathy and open communication, both parties can build a stronger bond that transcends generational differences."

Clare Waismann, M-RAS, SUDCC II


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2. Unaddressed issues & differing expectations 

"The common reasons adult children and parents don't get along are often hangovers of unaddressed issues and differing expectations from the past. Lack of time invested in listening to one another as adults also contributes to current misunderstandings and resentments.

Given the decreasing longevity of everyone involved, there is a poignancy in avoiding improved communication that may ease everyone's lives. This is perpetuated by repeated patterns of reaction and behavior that all involved would benefit from modulating. Maybe start with mentioning specifically what each one appreciates in the other?"

Ruth Schimel, Ph.D., Career & Life Mgt. Consultant, Author


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3. Loss of authority

When you have spent a lifetime "in charge" and even went through difficult times, a new relationship begins when your child is now an adult. Letting go and keeping your opinions to yourself at times is the best way to care and encourage continued growth and confidence. Enjoy this new relationship and give support and praise in new ways.

Suzanne Geimer, The Special Angel Project

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4. Judgmental parents

"A parent's job is to help create an adult and launch them into the world so they can take care of themselves. It is essential that the parent back off and allow the adult child to make their own mistakes and decisions. It is part of growing up. The parents will not be there forever. They can be available for counsel or suggestions, but interfering in the adult child's life can push them away and create a problematic relationship. It says: I don't trust you. You are not smart enough to know what is best for you. You are incompetent and not an adult.


This includes criticizing their relationship, career, friend, living situation, location choices, etc. Keep your thoughts to yourself unless asked; even then, be humble and supportive. "

Merle Yost, LMFT

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5. Extended helicopter parenting

“Parents who want to hover and control their children’s lives will tend to want to control their adult children’s lives, too. They don’t let their child differentiate; they see their adult children as “mini-me’s.” They have the expectation that their child should do what they would do or what they’d advise, especially in terms of relationships and parenting decisions. That is seldom the case. With a new generation comes a new world perspective.


Parents who invest as much into their own life as they do their kids’ lives are often happier, and so are their children. Alternatively, parents who judge their kids’ every move are setting them up on the road to indecision and doubt, anger, and resentment.”

Kathy Ramsperger, Coach, Author, Speaker

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6. Inability to evolve

"Relationships evolve, and they change, with the parent-child relationship perhaps being the most dramatic in this regard.  Kids go from intensely needing their parents in childhood, to still needing them in adolescence, but now resenting them. 


Adulthood was supposed to be when kids are now independent. This transition used to be thought of as arriving at about age 18. Now researchers are saying it’s more like 30, with some adults still highly dependent upon their parents even later in life.  

Why?  Because life is more complicated, and support is needed for the now older child to launch—but what this means varies by family.

Since adulthood is now a highly nuanced transition, misunderstandings easily arise leading to resentments and arguments.  Parents are confronting needs in their children that they didn’t personally experience. Children are facing the reality that they are not as independent as they thought they would be. As a society, we’re just beginning to evolve a way of describing these challenges and needs.  


The good news is that frequently these misunderstandings are not about love. Adult children and parents often love each other.  The challenge for the child is how to show love and need without feeling too needy and then beating up on themselves.

For the parent, their challenge is how to have expectations that are not too high resulting in pushing their children away.”

Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D., Psychologist, Speaker, Best-selling Author

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NyRee Ausler is a writer who covers lifestyle, relationship, and human-interest stories that readers can relate to and that bring social issues to the forefront for discussion.