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FAMILY RECONCILIATION: New project focuses on what brings families back together.

Have you reconciled with a family member? The recently launched Cornell Family Reconciliation Project wants to hear from you in hopes of better understanding the breakdown, and rebuilding, of family relationships.

According to research, more than one-fifth of adults report currently experiencing estrangement from a family member and most families live through an estrangement at some point.

Despite how often family members are cut off from one another, there is little academic analysis on estrangement. There is also scarce professional guidance for families trying to heal a rift among its members.

The Cornell Family Reconciliation Project aims to fill this knowledge gap.

Over the past five years, the project's research group at Cornell University has been conducting studies of people who have experienced estrangements in their families. Sometimes, an estrangement can be permanent, but in other cases, a reconciliation takes place.

"There is a lot of information available on how difficult estrangements are and what causes them," said Karl Pillemer, professor of Human Development at Cornell and the director of the project. "However, what is lacking is the good news--how family members overcome a rift and reconcile."

The goal of the research project is to help provide new knowledge about and possible solutions to family estrangements. Learning about how some families have reconciled with one another after a break-up, according to Pillemer, will provide invaluable information about this problem.

Because of this, the project is seeking individuals from across the country to contribute their stories of how they reconciled with family members after a rift. The researchers will study these reports about how an estrangement was resolved and offer solutions based on these real-life experiences.

"By gathering many reconciliation stories, we hope to contribute knowledge that is useful in resolving such family problems," Pillemer said. "We invite people to help us understand this complex problem by sharing their stories.

"The advice from people who have been through estrangement and reconciliation can help thousands of other families."

Reconciled family members may share their stories on the Cornell Family Reconciliation Project web site. Also, those interested can participate in the study by volunteering for an anonymous personal interview (sign-up information is on the web site below.) Based on the data they collect, Pillemer and his research team will prepare materials designed to offer advice to estranged family members and to the professionals who work with them.

If you or your family has experienced an estrangement that came to an end and contact was resumed, or to learn more about the project, visit

--Stephen D'Angelo and Sheri Hall

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Title Annotation:Inside CHE
Author:D'Angelo, Stephen; Hall, Sheri
Publication:Human Ecology
Date:Sep 22, 2018
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