Stigma of broken family relationships compounded by lockdown

  Woman at home alone  Credit: Pixabay

Lockdown restrictions have not brought estranged family members closer together, and recent focus on the importance of family support has made dealing with the pandemic even more difficult for those with challenging family situations, a new study has found.

The report, by researchers at the University of Cambridge, Edge Hill University and the UK-based charity Stand Alone, brings together over 800 responses to a survey sent out to the charity’s UK community. The survey asked individuals about the experience of being estranged from family during the current crisis, and how it has impacted them and their family relationships. Over half of the respondents said they felt more isolated now than they had before lockdown.

During the pandemic many estranged people have become more conscious of not having family to support them, for example to help with grocery shopping while they can’t go to the supermarket themselves. For some it has brought the realisation that their well-being is not important to other family members, and compounded the feeling of being unloved and uncared for. 

78% of respondents had maintained the same level of non-contact with their estranged family member during lockdown, and 6% had experienced even less contact. One respondent said they hadn’t spoken to another person for over two months. 

“There’s a lot of stigma around estrangement, and people in this situation have experienced it in a heightened way during lockdown. Many have become more aware that they have smaller support networks than others,” said Dr Susan Imrie at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research, who was involved in the study.

The researchers say the importance of family relationships has been highlighted repeatedly throughout lockdown in television advertising, news headlines and social media. But for those who were already estranged from family, the pandemic and the messages surrounding it have compounded feelings of stigma and social isolation.

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Image: Woman at home alone

Credit: Pixabay

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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