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Relationships, Rifts And Reconciliation: When And How To Fix A Fracture With Family

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Cutting off contact or being cut off from a family member is incredibly and increasingly common in the U.S.

A first-of-its-kind, large-scale national survey found that at least 27% of American adults — 67 million people — were estranged from a family member.

Ten percent of the more than 1,300 people surveyed reported estrangement from a parent or child, 8% from a sibling, and 9% from cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews, or other extended family.

According to a separate 2015 study, approximately 40% of Americans have been estranged from a family member at some point.

What causes these kinds of rifts and ruptures? Is the rise in family estrangements a product of a more individualistic culture in which the function and value of family has shifted, and it is more acceptable to cut problematic people out instead of feeling obligated to tolerate them?

Damaged relationships can provoke anger, grief and depression for those involved, and cause collateral damage when people are forced to choose sides. For most people, family rifts are a source of chronic stress that threatens “mental, social and physical well-being."

High-pressure parenting, political tribalism, financial disputes, divergent views of the past, sibling rivalries, lifestyle discrepancies or any number of other conflicts can cause families to fracture, but researcher Karl Pillemer believes that in most cases, reconciliation is possible and worth pursuing.

How can relatives reconcile broken relationships? When should you try to mend and when is it time to move on?

Guest: Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., professor of Human Development at Cornell University and author of "Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them"

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, September 9.

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