A survey of over 1,000 mothers who were part of the Understanding Parental Estrangement Survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center in 2019 and estranged from their adult children revealed a disconnect between what the kids might say is the reason and parents believe

While adult children often explain their estrangements as stemming from emotional abuse, conflicting expectations about roles, and personality clashes, nearly 80 percent of the mothers in the survey believed that an ex-husband or their son- or daughter-in-law had turned their children against them. Very few mentioned fundamental issues like their children’s sexuality or sexual orientation, or religious issues but did note differences in politics and parenting.

A majority (over 62 percent) of moms also believed their child’s mental health , including anxiety and depression, or even addiction issues like alcoholism payed a role.

Of the 1,035 mothers who agreed to complete an online survey, 52 percent were estranged from a daughter and 45 percent were estranged from a son. Nearly 60 percent of the moms had gone more than a year without contact with their children. Most of the moms surveyed were divorced and 36 percent were currently married to or in a marriage-like relationship with their estranged child’s other biological parent.

Only 18 percent of mothers said they were at fault for the estrangement, but the paper notes that few children would take any blame either.

What may be the cause is societal changes. For as much as we hear about income inequality, everyone in the US is actually wealthier than ever compared to the rest of the world, more knowledgeable, and regard the world as less harsh than their parents and grandparent. Appropriate parenting behavior of the past could be considered abusive, harmful, neglectful or traumatizing behavior now. Kids used to be left outside unsupervised until after dark and now that would be deemed neglectful.

Views on the nature of child-parent relationships have also changed, and that may make estrangement harder on moms. “Many of these mothers were of a generation that thought family relationships were non-voluntary and permanent,” says co-author and Ohio State Psychology Professor Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan. “But younger people may feel that if you’re harming my well-being, I don’t have to have a relationship with you – even if you’re my mother.”