To test this question, we surveyed more than 300 adults of varying ages from throughout the United States. We had each participant describe each instance of someone living in the world today who is “dead to them.” We defined an estrangement as a social situation in which you acted like the person was dead to you and that person fully reciprocated. An ex-spouse whom you refuse to make eye contact with at the grocery store could be an example.
Our methodology allowed us to measure the total number of estrangements that each participant reported having in his or her own social world. The average number of reported estrangements was 3.86. So most adults in our sample could name about four people in the world who were “dead to them.” Interestingly, there was quite a range of scores for the estrangement variable. Scores ranged from 0 to 27 (yes, one participant reported 27 specific others living in the world today who are “dead” to that person).