What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation sometimes occurs when parents engage in a high-conflict separation or divorce. Parental alienation means that the child has become enmeshed with one parent (the preferred parent) and has rejected a relationship with the other parent (the target parent) without legitimate justification.
Parental alienation is the termed used when a child unreasonably rejects one parent as the result of conscious or unconscious negative influence by another. The alienating parent cultivates an attitude of obsessive hostility in the child towards the alienated parent. The hatred the child holds towards the alienated parent usually extends to that parents entire family, often negating any positive benefits from being part of the extended family. In relationship breakdowns that involve infidelity or does not end mutually, one parent frequently uses the child as a weapon to hurt the other parent.
Since the vast majority of custody cases favor the mother, the father is far more frequently the alienated parent. While there is some criticism of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) that it excuses abusive men, family lawyers, psychologists and social workers all support the concept as something that happens frequently in practice. A case where a child naturally prefers one parent to another does not count as pathological alienation.
Parental Alienation Syndrome does not extend to fathers who are legitimately abusive or demonstrably unfit. Children are aware that they are genetically made of 50 percent of their mother and 50 percent of their father. When one parent verbally denigrates and dehumanizes the other parent in front of the child, their emotional and psychological identity is damaged, as they can come to believe they are made of the same terrible qualities.
There are many documented negative effects of fatherlessness and if the father is not harmful to the child’s development, they should be involved as much as possible. While economic support is very important, social and emotional support to a child’s development and well being is essential. Spite, vindictiveness and spousal relationship baggage should not extend to the parent-child relationship. The alienated parent frequently faces increased rates of substance abuse and depression.
The age of the child at divorce, alignment of other family and institutional workers, and presence of siblings can all affect the likelihood that a child will become alienated from a parent.
What Are We Recommending?
1. Parents should put the well being of their children first and adopt co-parenting arrangements that allow for a full relationship with both parents
2. A presumption of equal shared parenting should be made the law in Canada following a family break up
3. We must make available fathering programs that support dads undergoing a family break-up with resources and tools to maintain a healthy relationship with their child or children
Consequences of Parental Alienation
Adult Children that have experienced parental alienation may exhibit the following effects long term:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of trust in others
- Difficulty with intimate relationships
- Feeling shame for hurting the rejected parent
- Alcohol or drug problems
- Higher propensity for divorce
Signs of Parental Alienation
What Are the Symptoms of Parental Alienation
The Benefits of Shared Parenting
The Importance of a Father on a Child’s Development
Are You a Separated or Divorced Father?
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The characteristic psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent draws the child into a role-reversal relationship to help the narcissistic/(borderline) parent regulate three separate but interrelated sources of intense anxiety
1 Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who come to hate, fear, and reject the targeted parent as someone unworthy of having a relationship with them.
2 Richard Gardner, PhD described that there are eight behavioral components that have been validated in a survey of 68 targeted parents of severely alienated children (Baker & Darnall, 2007), including A Campaign of Denigration, Absence of Guilt About the Treatment of the Targeted Parent and Rejection of Extended Family
1. One parent denigrating the other “targeted” parent results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the life of the child.
2. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent.
3. Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.
1 “Shared parental responsibility” approach which embodies the principle of the “best interests of the child, from the perspective of the child,” emphasizing children’s needs for protection from harm, parental equality and family autonomy as core interests of children in the divorce transition.
2 The “shared parental responsibility” approach to divorce law reform is comprised of four main elements:
1) The establishment of a legal expectation that parents must jointly or separately develop a parenting plan before a court hearing is held on matters related to their divorce.
2) The establishment of a legal expectation that existing parent-child relationships will continue after separation.
3) Shared parental responsibility will be the legal rebuttable presumption.
4) Exempt will be established cases of abuse and domestic violence which will continue to be dealt with via third party intervention, with child protection as the overriding concern.
Woozles: Their Role in Custody Law Reform, Parenting Plans, and Family Court, by Linda Nielsen, Wake Forest University, American Psychological Association, 2014, in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 20, No. 2, 164 –180
Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report, by Richard A. Warshak, American Psychological Association, 2014, in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 46 – 67
Young children’s interests benefit when two adequate parents follow a parenting plan that provides their children with balanced and meaningful contact with each parent. Overnights help to reduce the tension associated with rushing to return the child, and thus potentially improve the quality and satisfaction of the contact both for the parent and child. An additional advantage of overnights is that in the morning the father can return the child to the daycare; this avoids exposing the child to tensions associated with the parents’ direct contact with each other.
Statistics Canada 2007 – Study: Frequency of contact between separated fathers and their children
1. Dads who remained closely involved with their children in the first few months following separation had a much greater chance of remaining so later on, the study showed.
2. The majority of fathers and mothers form new unions in the years following separation, often with individuals who also have children from an earlier union. Close to half of these new couples go on to have a child together.
3. The earlier separated fathers entered a new union, the less frequently they saw their children later on. In particular, non-resident fathers who began a new union within two months of separation had significantly less contact with children than those who did not.
4. Fathers who invest time in their children are also more inclined to invest money and other resources
5. Fathers who were involved in their non-resident children’s lives after separation did not abandon them, whatever the family commitments they later took on.
Fathers’ Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010, by Jo Jones, Ph.D., and William D. Mosher, Ph.D., National Health Statistics Report, Division of Vital Statistics, Number 71, December 20, 2013
1 Black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%).
2 A larger percentage of older fathers had not played with their non co-residential children compared with the youngest fathers.
3 Fathers who lived with children under age 5 were six times more likely than fathers who did not live with their young children to have read to them.
Shared Physical Custody: Summary of 40 Studies on Outcomes for Children, by Linda Nielsena Department of Education, Wake Forest University, in the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, Published online: 04 Nov 2014.
1. Shared parenting children of all ages made better grades, were less depressed, and were more well-adjusted behaviorally than the children in the sole residence families.
2. High, ongoing conflict in which the children are involved sometimes diminish the benefits of shared parenting. But this does not mean shared parenting will create negative impact, in fact, shared parenting is more likely to decrease the negative impact of conflict.
3. Even though shared parenting couples tend to have somewhat higher incomes and somewhat less verbal conflict than other parents, these two factors alone do not explain the better outcomes for the children.
Mum’s the Word of Fatherhood Download the book by Jim Macnamara
Ideology and Dysfunction in Family Law
Download the Book By Grant A. Brown | May 6, 2014
For several decades now, fathers have faced significant, widespread bias in family courts across Canada. But as author Grant Brown shows in this free e-book, many of the popular prejudices behind this bias simply have no basis in law or fact. In Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law – How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers, Brown shows us why dads are getting such a raw deal – and what can be done about it.
child custody, access and parental responsibility
Download the Book by Edward Kruk, University of British Columbia Professor | December 2008
Judge not, lest ye be judged: In family courts across the land, judges hold effectively the same powers over separated parents as feudal lords held over their serfs, and it pleases them to exercise this power without much restraint.
Trailer – Erasing Dad documentary
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Good morning America Interveiw of Dr. Amy J. L. Bake
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Second Dr. Craig Childress YouTube Speaking to the child
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“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us… We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
– Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it”.
— Clarence Budington Kelland.