‘Rules of estrangement’ by Joshua Coleman

By Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald on July 10, 2024

[This post is a work in progress]

In this book, psychotherapist Dr Joshua Coleman draws on 40 years of practice wisdom to discuss why some adult children withdraw from, or cut themselves off completely, from their parents. Coleman incorporates his own lived experience of being estranged for some time from his adult daughter. The book incorporates some research evidence but it is mostly based on Coleman’s reflections from working with parents who have adult children they are estranged from.

This book provides some interesting insights, from Coleman’s perspective, on how estrangement between adult children and their parents occurs, the sociocultural changes in society that may be increasing the prevalence of parent-child estrangement, and learnings useful if you are hoping to reconcile with an estranged adult child. In this post I highlight some of these interesting insights.

Some caveats

Coleman’s therapy-based insights about child-parent dynamics in estrangement and reconciliation are valuable. However, parts of this book read less like an objective assessment of family dynamics and slightly more along the continuum of advocacy for estranged parents. Additionally, some of the critiques about the longterm impacts of, and practitioner approaches to, some practice issues are not consistent with the most recent research evidence, including:

Coleman seems to downplay what we know about the impact of abusive parenting on physical and mental wellbeing in later life, and to suggest that therapists and mental health practitioners allow clients to decide their own diagnoses in a haphazard way. If you are interested in the topics listed above, you may find it useful to supplement your reading. Some useful sources of evidence-based insights about working with children and families, as well as the impact of stressful life events on children, can be found here:

Interesting insights

[This post is a work in progress]