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published report regarding estranged families

(17 Posts)
Melawen Mon 04-Jan-16 10:37:48

Hi all - as an NHS Librarian I come across many bits of information and came across this one today that I thought might make interesting reading for many of you - Hidden Voices: Family Estrangement in Adulthood (University of Cambridge) - it's not a terribly in-depth report but is interesting to read.

MoominPie22 Mon 04-Jan-16 10:42:46

Thanks I shall check it out later as I have an estranged family, strange being the operative word! lol Washed my hands of the lot of them.

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 11:16:52

Interesting; thank you for the link.

I've spent the last few days reading another excellent link from a MNer: Down the Rabbit Hole: The world of estranged parents' forums

I found particularly illuminating the bit on "emotion creates reality" vs "reality creates emotion".

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Mon 04-Jan-16 14:55:57

Interesting stuff, though as you say not particularly in-depth study.

that Rabbit Hole link looks interesting pausing. I do think that sometimes it's the children who are more of a problem than the parents, though we don't hear of that so much specially on Mumsnet. But a lot of the time, the children have rotten parents; some peoples' experiences on here are appalling.

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 16:01:17

I found the Rabbit Hole stuff excellent, partly because it looked at (a particular set of) estranged parents' own words.

So it doesn't depend on the children's reporting of the parents: this is what the estranged parents choose to say about themselves.

It's more than enough to make the reader back away ver-ry slowly.

FredaMayor Mon 04-Jan-16 17:06:21

Thanks for posting the information Melawen.

IMO whilst the 'Rabbit Hole' blog has a point of view to put I think it fair to point out that it does not appear to be scientific in the sense that the author does not set out what experience or authority he or she has to base their evidence or analysis of family estrangement issues. If the blogger has years of undeclared practice and research into family psychology I would not have known it from the material or presentation.

The pitfall of this kind of publication is that the blogger is preaching hearsay to the converted who blame the parents, e.g. the blog frequently cites estranged parents' online forum posts in an ad hoc manner and does not balance the forums' contentions with any material posing a different or contrary view.

Joshua Colman has based a career in popular psychology concerning
family relationships and is rather more experienced and to some extent balanced, although his insights as far as they are presented seem to me superficial and populist as you will see from his books and TV appearances.

The Stand Alone study mainly stated statistics drawn from questionnaires responded to by self-selecting subjects, and the results and conclusion were very thin. I would not have published that material and would have waited until more cross referencing and complementary information was added to the research through qualitative and quantitative enquiry which would involve case studies. Nevertheless it's not surprising that there isn't any as there is a paucity of research in this field.

I think the truth is there are both toxic parents and toxic children, I think they can both do a good job of damaging each other if they set their mind to it. How is this enabled? We live in a society where we have almost limitless choice and the 'Right To Be Happy' (sound of trumpets) so why should any accept less than ideal family members? - I ask that ironically in case there was doubt.

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Mon 04-Jan-16 17:43:04

It's also enabled because you can't really know what goes on behind the front door.

Also because some people are highly manipulative, which nothing can effectively stop unless it becomes criminal. Manipulative behaviour tends to be pretty successful on small children, though some people grow up and manipulate others despite the example of loving parents.

Your last sentances sounded as though they meant that we should accept imperfections in family members, did I understand that aright? If I did ... accept imperfections yes. But not behaviour that is actively damaging. You can only endure so much of that before you have to walk away for your survival (unless there is a realistic chance of things changing positively through therapy or simple ages or whatever other reason).

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 17:59:02

I'm not sure what you mean by hearsay? The Rabbit Hole author cites estranged parents' own words, which they themselves have published. That wouldn't normally be described as hearsay.

The author also does set out point-by-point comparisons between some of the cultures they identify on the estranged parents' forums being studied, and contrary cultures in other forums. You could of course look at the same material and decide to disagree with the analysis, but that doesn't make the material hearsay.

I'm not sure, is that what you meant by "balance"?

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 18:12:43

Or is "balance" just a desire for #NotAllEstrangedParents ? The Rabbit Hole author is explicit that they're not talking about all estranged parents (and for me this goes without saying anyway). The website is about people who are themselves publicly claiming to exhibit particular behaviours.

Offred Mon 04-Jan-16 18:22:29

Down the rabbit hole is absolutely a revelation for me! Thank you so much for posting that link!

FredaMayor Mon 04-Jan-16 19:32:32

Flatly, it is hearsay:

Balance is necessary to provide rigour in a scientific study and desirable by extension in a study where peoples' opinion is reported (hearsay!), and could have been provided in part by using narratives from both parents and childrens or grandchildrens' experience. Any investigation not doing so would be one-sided, inherently biased and incomplete, if you see my drift.

As I made the point earlier, I think case studies over a period of time are what is needed. The Stand Alone statistical report is a start, I wouldn't want to minimise that. But Rabbit Hole a blog, and it is what it is. Just be aware that proper research it isn't.

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 20:09:39


A person's first-person account of themselves is not hearsay. So, an estranged parent writing about their own words, actions and beliefs is not hearsay. It might untrue, but it's not hearsay. (In contrast, an estranged child repeating an estranged parent's words is hearsay.)

Perhaps you're describing the Down the Rabbit Hole as constituting hearsay where the published words of estranged parents are being quoted by the author. But by that measure all investigations, reports, academic studies, and newspaper articles which use first-person testimony, themselves constitute hearsay. In fact, many of these use "interview with the author" as their source, rather than the quoted person's own publications. I have no way of checking for accuracy or cherry-picking from an interview with the author, whereas I actually can check the quoted person's own words when they have published on a public internet forum.

So I would actually be less concerned about trusting quotes in this context, than I would be in some academic articles (and I've seen some doozies). That doesn't mean I would what any given article or site says uncritically, but that I wouldn't doubt these articles/site more than any other.

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 20:25:29

And that's why asked what you meant by "balance".

You could have meant Rabbit Hole should, "Be fair to the quoted forum", and publish lots of quotes that aren't about obviously abusive behaviour.

Or you could have meant, "Be fair to estranged, abusive parents" and publish lots of quotes by estranged, abusive children.

And so on.

Whatever you had in mind, it is NOT incumbent on a scientific study to provide balance. It is incumbent on a scientific study to state exactly what question it was asking, and how it went about it, so that readers can assess what they are being told.

Eg, what do you think the "balance" would be in a scientific study of how many children died in Bristol of septicaemia in the year 2000? Would the balance be the number of children who died of septicaemia in York? The number who died in 1900? The number who died of heart disease? The number of adults who died? The number who had septicaemia but survived?

No. The study tells you what precisely question it asked. If you want to know the answer to a different question, you're welcome to ask that yourself.

None of which is anyway relevant to this website, which as you correctly point out is not a scientific study. None of which means it can't be read for what it is: an informal qualitative analysis of the behaviour of self-selecting groups of people in their own words.

I'm cool with that. I found it interesting, informative and thought-provoking. I'm not going to be putting anyone in jail on the basis of it.

PausingFlatly Mon 04-Jan-16 20:35:14

That said, I did find it pertinent to future scientific research.

Eg, the author looked at how many posts on estranged parents forums expressed wishes to hurt the estranged child, physically or psychologically. And compared this to such posts on estranged children's forums.

She described this in terms of lots (on the former) versus very, very few (on the latter).

This is not rigorous, qualitative research. But it's indicative of where such research might be interesting.

StandAlone Wed 02-Mar-16 15:01:02

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

pippishortstockings Wed 02-Mar-16 20:07:16

The stand alone report is a start.

"Down the rabbit hole"-interesting but not at all scientific. Like quoting from AIBU rants and saying that these are the general views of all MNers.

Needs controlled samples and clear questions to access the views of parents-we don't know if the quotes selected are skewed to prove a point.

Also people say things like "I feel like shaking her" when venting- doesn't mean that they intend physical harm. Hurt is often expressed as anger.

Agree that it may indicate where research might be interesting but it isn't research.

Suggest that talking to real people by researchers who have passed ethics committees would be more useful.

MeMySonAndl Wed 02-Mar-16 23:44:44

Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting it

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