One concept used in regard to specific relationships is that of parental alienation, where a child is distanced from and expresses a general dislike for one of their parents (who may have divorced or separated). The term is not applied where there is child abuse. The parental alienation might be due to specific influences from either parent or could result from the social dynamics of the family as a whole. It can also be understood in terms of attachment, the social and emotional process of bonding between child and caregiver. Adoptees can feel alienated from both adoptive parents and birth parents.
Familial estrangement between parents and adult children “is attributed to a number of biological, psychological, social, and structural factors affecting the family, including attachment disorders, incompatible values and beliefs, unfulfilled expectations, critical life events and transitions, parental alienation, and ineffective communication patterns.” The degree of alienation has been positively correlated with decreased emotional functioning in the parent who feels a loss of identity and stigma.
Attachment relationships in adults can also involve feelings of alienation Indeed, emotional alienation is said to be a common way of life for many, whether it is experienced as overwhelming, or is not admitted to in the midst of a socioeconomic race, or contributes to seemingly unrelated problems.