“I feel erased:” A qualitative analysis of grandparent experiences of parental alienation

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Objective: This study employs the life course perspective to explore the lived experience of grandparents who have no contact with their grandchildren due to parental alienation (PA). Background: PA represents situations in which a child becomes estranged from one parent because of the manipulation of the other parent. The estrangement from the alienated parent leads to and manifests inter alia in denial of contact with the grandparents from the alienated side of the family. It is critical to examine the experiences of grandparents who were denied contact with their grandchildren due to PA to identify these grandparents’ unique needs and facilitate assistance and support. Method: Thirteen grandparents aged 63 to 83 years (M = 72 years, SD = 6.52) were interviewed using an interpretive phenomenological analysis approach to analyze their narratives. Findings: Participant interviews revealed four superordinate themes: (a) the race against time, (b) disregard of grandparents’ victim status, (c) health and functioning implications of alienation from grandchildren, and (d) reflections on being a grandparent suffering from PA and insights at this stage of life. Conclusions: PA-related estrangement from grandchildren leads to negative outcomes regarding grandparents’ daily functioning, perception, and well-being. Aging characteristics collide with these outcomes to form an experience unique to grandparents in these vulnerable situations. Implications: Practitioners treating older adults require awareness of parental alienation's adverse impact on grandparents to address their specific needs and hardships. Additionally, it is incumbent on the legal system and practitioners involved in PA cases to consider grandparent victimization, allow them to voice their pain, and take their interests into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)976-992
Number of pages17
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • grandparent
  • life-course perspective
  • older adults
  • parental alienation


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