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Parental Alienation is any behaviour by a parent, a child's mother or father, whether conscious or unconscious, that could create alienation in the relationship between a child and the other parent. Parental alienation can be mild and temporary or extreme and ongoing. Most researchers believe that any alienation of a child against (the child's) other parent is harmful to the child and to the target parent. Extreme, obsessive, and ongoing parental alienation can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood. Parental Alienation focuses on the alienating parents behavior as opposed to the alienated parent's and alienated children's conditions.
This definition is different from Parental Alienation Syndrome as originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1987: "a disturbance in which children are preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated." Parental Alienation Syndrome symptoms describe the child's behaviours and attitude towards the targeted parent after the child has been effectively programmed and severely alienated from the targeted parent. Parental alienation, on the other hand, describes the alienating parent's or parents' conduct which induces parental alienation syndrome in children.
Parental alienation is a form of relational aggression by one parent against the other parent using their common children. The process can become cyclic with each parent attempting to alienate the children from the other. There is potential for a negative feedback loop and escalation. At other times an affected parent may withdraw leaving the children to the alienating parent. Children so alienated often suffer effects similar to those studied in the psychology of torture. (Sources: External link articles below and late adulthood consciousness of parental alienation)
Alienating parents often use grandparents, aunts/uncles, and other elders to alienate their children against the target parent. In some cases, mental health professionals become unwitting allies in these alienation attempts by backing unfounded allegations of neglect, abuse or mental disease. Courts also often side with the alienating parent against the target parent in legal judgements because parental alienation is so difficult to detect.
Extreme forms of parental alienation include obsessive brainwashing, character assassination, and the false inducement of fear, shame, and rage in children against the target parent. Moderate forms of parental alienation include loss of self control, flareups of anger, and unconscious alliances with the children against the target parent. In it's mildest forms, parental alienation includes occasional mild denigration alternating with a focus on encouraging the children's relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation often forces children to choose sides and become allies against the other parent. Children caught in the middle of such conflicts suffer severe losses of love, respect and peace during their formative years. They also often lose their alienated parent forever. These consequences and a host of others cause terrible traumas to children as studied in Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Parents so alienated often suffer heartbreaking loss of their children through no fault of their own. In addition, they often face false accusations from their alienated children that they cannot counter with the facts. Finally, they often find themselves powerless to show that this little-known form of cruel, covert, and cunning aggression is occurring or has occurred.
Experience in UK family law
- Lady Justice Hale (in Re K (Contact: Psychiatric Report)  2 FLR 432) stated:
- It is my unhappy experience, borne out by other anecdotal evidence and confirmed by the Official Solicitor's department that there seems to be an increasing number of cases coming before the family courts where contact between a young child and the absent parent has become bedevilled by stubborn opposition to contact being shown by the child which may, or may not, be evidence of some implacable hostility on the part of the other parent for good reason or for no reason at all.
Since The Children Act requires that the views of the child need to be made known to the court, fathers' rights campaigners claim that the mother sometimes alienates a child against his or her father and that this then supports the mother's case in court to banish the father.
- Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, President of the Family division, (the top UK family court judge) stated (in Re L, V, M, H (Contact: Domestic Violence)  2 FLR 334 at 351):
- There is, of course, no doubt that some parents, particularly mothers, are responsible for alienating their children from their fathers without good reason and thereby creating this sometimes insoluble problem. That unhappy state of affairs, well known in family courts, is a long way from recognised syndrome requiring mental health professionals to play an expert role.
- Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect It and What to Do About It
- Three Types of Parental Alienation
- Preventing Parentectomy Following Divorce
- Bullying In the Family from the UK National Bullying Advice Line
- Parental Alienation is Bad Parenting, Not a Pyschiatric Disorder (editorial from IFeminists.com)
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