Children Who Don't Visit Their Parents: An Increasingly Common Reality

There are children who don't call their parents, hardly ever visit them, and don't care about their well-being. Although there are several factors that might explain this reality, and it may, occasionally be understandable, at other times, it's not and the situation only generates suffering.
Children Who Don't Visit Their Parents: An Increasingly Common Reality
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

There are many children who don’t visit their parents or increasingly space out their meetings and end up cutting ties completely. Furthermore, these realities are now happening more frequently and, in many cases cause great suffering.

On occasions, this distancing might be justified. At other times, the factors are difficult to explain.

The moment we become parents, we take it for granted that we’ll have the affection of our children until the end of our existence. We assume that our relationships with them will always be healthy, genuine, and solid. However, in this life there’s no solid guarantee of almost anything, and, sometimes, the maternal or paternal filial bond is fractured.

Situations in which parents don’t know why their children have chosen to distance themselves cause uncertainty and often great anguish. They’re always waiting for the phone to ring. They await a visit that never comes. They try contacting friends of their children in the hope that they’ll get in contact or just to make sure they’re okay.

Every family and family member is unique. While some behaviors may be justified, it’s not always clear what causes distance in the relationship between parents and children. In fact, the first alarm signal is often when the visits are reduced.

Unresolved resentments between parents and children can cause the bond to gradually break. Visits become increasingly sporadic and there’s hardly any contact by phone.

Elderly woman thinking about the children who do not visit their parents
Sometimes, the problematic personality of one of the children can cause the visits to be increasingly sporadic.

Why some children don’t visit their parents

Over recent years, increasingly more children have been breaking up with their parents. The family model is changing. There’s no longer such a firm subordination of children to their parents as remains in Eastern countries, like Japan. Many times, when there are harmful dynamics or the home environment itself is unstructured, it’s common for children to opt for distancing.

A study conducted by doctors Glenn Deane and Glenna Spitz, and published in The Journals of Gerontology claims that when children don’t visit their parents and directly choose to break the relationship, there’s no one single factor that explains it. In reality, there are several variables that come together in the decision. Below, we examine them.

Many children are clear that their parents (or one of them) made a mistake in their way of exercising fatherhood or motherhood. Authoritarianism or lack of attachment are dimensions that often create insurmountable distances.

Traumatic experiences and the need to distance

It’s evident that there’s often a specific cause behind children not visiting their parents. For example, an upbringing and education that occurred under situations of abuse make it difficult for family harmony to exist. In these situations, when children eventually manage to leave home, it’s common for them to need to get away from the parent or parents who left them with a deep traumatic wound.

Differences in values and ongoing arguments

It’s quite common for an adult child to become aware that, every time they visit their parents, an argument and disagreement take place. Differences in values or even the fact that the child hasn’t met parental expectations are frequent sources of disputes and discomfort.

Therefore, in order to avoid uncomfortable situations, children gradually decide to space out their visits more.

Parents who don’t accept their children’s partners/children’s partners who don’t accept their inlaws

Some children are the apple of their mother’s and father’s eye until they start a relationship. Then, everything falls apart. The relationship becomes a battlefield as they don’t accept their children’s life partners.

The parents insist that they ‘deserve better’. This ends, sooner or later, with a cooling of the relationship. On the other hand, it’s sometimes the partners of the children who are the ones who have a bad relationship with the parents of their loved one. This tension in a couple with their in-laws can translate into a radical decision: they stop making visits.

Children with mental problems or with difficult personalities

Parents might have several children and be on good terms with all of them, except one. A difficult, complex, and even challenging personality can intensify the bond between parents and children.

We also can’t rule out mental problems. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and even addictions may be behind a lack of family visits.

Children with problematic characters create tensions in the family. It’s common for them to spend long periods of time without seeing their parents.

Tensions between siblings and parents with selective love for their children

The golden (or preferred) child is often the reason for highly complex dynamics within a family. Indeed, when parents favor only one child and the others feel discriminated against, the others will often distance themselves. These are situations full of resentment due to selective affection on the part of the parents.

Daughter talking to her older mother about the children not visiting their parents
Sometimes, work or couple relationships can cause parents and children to live separated by distance. Visits are sporadic, but contact is frequent.

Children who don’t visit their parents for justifiable reasons, but who stay in contact

Some children don’t visit their parents because it’s not possible for them. Living in other communities, cities, and even countries makes it difficult to have enriching physical encounters. Furthermore, work and having a family of their own also make these visits sometimes more sporadic than they’d like.

However, despite the distance, children who love their parents are always in touch. There’s always a daily call to ask “How are you Mom? How was your day, Dad?”. Those gestures and the need to know about each other keep the bond strong despite the miles between them.

The harsh reality of children who ignore their elderly parents

This is a highly unpleasant situation. Children who ignore their parents when they need them most. The visits stop, the phone stops ringing, and the older adult is plunged into loneliness and abandonment.

What’s behind this reality? Once again, there can be many contributory factors. For example, sometimes, when parents become increasingly dependent, children find it a burden to take care of them. They wait for social services to respond, for the community to play the role they don’t want to play. Time passes and no one acts.

These are portraits of the darker reality of society that shouldn’t ever be tolerated. Because beyond the relationship that any of us have with our parents, lies humanity and the need to provide assistance when they can’t fend for themselves. This should never be forgotten.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ermisch, J. (2008). Adult child-parent relationships. In Changing Relationships (pp. 127–145). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Lawton, L., Silverstein, M., y Bengtson, V. (2006). Afecto, contacto social y distancia geográfica entre hijos adultos y sus padres. Diario del matrimonio y la familia , 56 (1), 57.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.