A University of Newcastle researcher will develop a better understanding of the impact of family rifts and subsequent estrangement on individuals and families in a first-of-its-kind study.
Faculty of Education and Arts Associate Lecturer in Social Work Kylie Agllias's research aims to explore the experiences of older people affected by family breakdown. She is calling for volunteers aged 65 years and over, who are estranged from an adult child, for the study.
"Around one in 25 people have stopped contact with at least one family member for months or years and they may feel sad or distressed about the loss of this relationship," Mrs Agllias said.
"Estrangement is a common and sometimes very distressing experience that is often overlooked in our society and is an area that, to date, has been largely neglected by researchers."
Mrs Agllias said the causes of estrangement were varied and individuals could be affected in many ways.
"Estrangement can be the result of differences of opinion over family values and expectations, concerns over choice of marriage partners or disputes over financial matters or inheritances.
"Some people may become estranged after a significant conflict or a loss of trust in a family member, while others may drift apart over time.
"For older people in particular, estrangement might result in a lack of physical and emotional support, feelings of loss and, in many cases, their relationships with grandchildren break down."
Participants in the study will be asked to spend around one hour with Mrs Agllias to discuss their personal experiences of estrangement and its impact on their wellbeing.
"This is an important area of research because it is such a common occurrence and if we are going to be able to help those suffering the negative affects of estrangement, it needs to be better understood," Mrs Agllias said.
For more information about being involved in the study, contact (02) 4921 7035 or email Kylie.Agllias@newcastle.edu.au.