Parental alienation is unfortunately a fairly common situation that occurs in families, particularly after a separation or divorce. It is a phenomenon where one parent (the alienating parent or alienator) attempts, often successfully, to instill upon the child or children involved a need to reject and disown the other (targeted or alienated) parent. Such is usually driven by the alienating parent having significant psychopathology and finds themselves trying to find a way where they can be the only parent to the child at the expense of the child/children’s relationship with the other, usually more psychologically intact, parent. What often follows is that the child is manipulated and induced into taking on the desires of the alienating parent for such an action, as if the rejection feelings towards the targeted parent comes from themselves. Usually there are actual delusional themes and processes (false belief systems) that are being taken on by these children as perpetuated by the alienating parent.
Parental Alienation (PA) is psychological child abuse (Childress/Baker/Warshak/Bernet). Furthermore, it is domestic violence of alienating parent onto targeted parent, using children as a weapon (Harman). Child psychological abuse is as harmful (if not more) as sexual and physical abuse (Spinazzola/Vachon). 22 million parents are alienated from their children in the United States alone (Harman/Biringen). This pathology can be quantified scientifically (Bernet). Alienation is not gender specific and is done equally by mothers and fathers (Jaffe/Miller).
Although “parental alienation” is used to describe this pathologic family dynamic, it is not a defined clinical construct in psychology. The accurate clinical term is “Pathogenic Parenting” and also known in the literature as “cross generational coalition”. Since everyone knows this problem as PA, we will refer to it as such for now.
“My family attorney told me that brainwashing of children to gain custody of children works. Don’t waste your money on courts, move on with your life”. This is an actual quote from a parent whose children were alienated and seem to be a common attitude among family law attorneys. How is it that psychological child abuse is not only allowed, but actually rewarded by the family court systems?
A century and half ago, human beings were sold in auction in the United States, and allowed by the courts. We look back with horror in what was done. If we fast forward another 150 years, we will look back in horror some of the things we are doing today. One of those will be how custody of children is being given to those with significant pathological personality disorders who are able to manipulate their children to reject and refuse the other more normal range, psychologically intact parent, along with the blessing of the courts and many custody evaluators. Although it will not take another 150 years for us to get the problem right (scientific evidence is catching up), but at this time children are being abused and their abusers are being rewarded handsomely.
Three main rewards taken by the alienating parents are:
1 – Gaining primary, and often full, custody of the child/children, often based upon the expressed, though brainwashed and manipulated child’s wishes, which ultimately fulfills the alienating parents own motives and emotional needs
2 – Gaining a sense of revenge via a punishing of the targeted parent under a theme of misperception and delusions, by depriving them of their children as well as the children mistreatment of the targeted parent.
3 – Financial gains via an increase in child support payments from the non-custodial parent.
In the process, these victim children end up at very high risk of suffering from irreversible long-term psychological damage as researched and described by Amy Baker, PhD.
Recent evidence indicate that PA abuse is as severe as physical and sexual abuse. To the lay person this may not seem quite right. Imagine an 8 year old child who witnesses the death of a parent and feels unprotected and unsupported. In the alienation situation, a child will likely feel similarly as they are essentially forced to psychologically kill off a parent that they once loved. Further, this child is not allowed to even grieve as such would mean facing the wrath and disapproval of the alienating parent. They are not allowed to show or even develop any empathy for the parent they are being forced to reject. One could only imagine how psychologically damaging that could be for this child.
Modern psychological tenets support the notion that, under normal circumstances, children do not reject their parents. They really only do so when they are psychologically manipulated and induced by trusted adults, such as the alienating parent.
This website is dedicated to the alienated children who suffers daily in the hands of alienating parents and to the alienated parents who are suffering the domestic violence waged upon them, using the most precious being to them – their children – as a weapon. It is to promote research and awareness in this area. In the “Scientific Publications” you will find scholarly work e.g. how outpatient therapy can make things worse, how removing children from alienator is safe, etc. There is an urgent need for funding research in this area and bring scientific rigor to help bring solutions to this serious problem.
Factoid: April 25th is Parental Alienation Awareness Day