Approximately 50% of children in America will witness their parents’ marriage break up.
And divorce has the second biggest impact on long-term stress. The only thing more stressful is the death of a loved one.
That’s a lot of children experiencing high levels of stress.
Unfortunately, 11-15% of children also experience Parental Alienation Syndrome during their parents’ divorce.
This extremely dangerous phenomenon causes life-long damage and is child abuse.
Anyone working in family law or going through a separation should know about it.
We’ve put together everything you need to know about Parental Alienation Syndrome. This includes what it is and the signs to look out for.
Read on to learn more.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation can occur during a divorce. One parent deliberately tries to distant their child from their other parent.
This may be subtle or obvious depending on the tactics used by the alienating parent. Both damage the bond between the child and the targeted parent.
This may seem like extreme behavior. And it is.
Parental Alienation often occurs if the alienating parent suffers from a personality disorder. This prevents them from behaving rationally.
The three leading personality disorders that lead to parental alienation are:
The alienating parent is using their child to hurt the targeted parent. Doing so often causes more harm to the child than to the other parent.
A child is more likely to ally themselves with a hurtful parent than with a loving one. This is because they are more afraid of the hurtful parent.
The child internalizes their parent’s alienation. This leads to Parental Alienation Syndrome.
So how does the alienating parent achieve this?
Malicious Mother And Divorced Dad Syndromes
Malicious Mother Syndrome and Divorced Dad Syndrome lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome. One parent’s behavior encourages their child to become alienated from their other parent.
For example, a parent may become excessively generous to win the children’s favor.
But this is also inconsistent parenting. It subtly forces the child to choose between his or her parents.
This encourages Parental Alienation Syndrome.
And this is not the only sign of parental alienation.
Parental Alienation Signs
Parental Alienation forces the child to take sides with one of their parents.
One parent might blame the other for a problem when explaining it to their child. For example “We can’t do this because daddy did this”. This promotes anger towards the other parent.
Or they might do this covertly. Discussing a problem in hearing distance of their child indirectly promotes anger as well.
They may also use body language to convey these messages. Even young children know what an eye-roll means.
The alienating parent might share ‘grown-up’ details of the divorce with their child. An example of this is financial concerns.
This makes the child feel responsible. Of course, they are not.
Some parents may use more practical strategies to alienate.
A parent could refuse to be around the targeted parent or to stick to the parenting plan. This forces the child to choose who to spend their time with.
One parent can also use things like scheduling to block the other parent out. Or they might also listen in on their child’s phone calls.
Sometimes the alienating parent uses the child to get information about their ex-partner’s life. This forces the child to take part in the struggle.
The alienating parent may accuse the other parent of abusing their child. This can happen in extreme cases. It can have severe psychological and legal implications for the parent-child relationship.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is clearest in the symptoms children themselves display.
So what symptoms does a child with Parental Alienation Syndrome display?
Symptoms Of Parental Alienation Syndrome In Children
This instability creates turmoil and stress for any child involved.
The child will often ally with the alienating parent. The result is Parental Alienation Syndrome.
The child’s behavior can indicate this. These are some of the symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome:
- The child wants to exclude the targeted parent. For example, they ask for them not to attend soccer matches. And the reasons they give for excluding them are often petty.
- The child displays defiant or argumentative behavior when they didn’t before.
- The child can no longer identify positive bonding experiences with the targeted parent.
- The child claims that they are responsible for the alienation of their parent. This is a direct claim of responsibility.
- The child feels guilty about having fun with the targeted parent. Or they repeatedly complain about the targeted parent to a third party.
- The child believes each parent is either good or bad. They cannot see an in between.
- They automatically agree with the alienating parent in all discussions.
- They also direct negative feelings toward other members of the family. These family members are on the targeted parent’s side.
Behavior like this suggests Parental Alienation Syndrome. The child has internalized the feelings of the alienating parent.
This doesn’t only damage the parent-child bond.
Pathological parenting can also create child psychopathology. Without intervention, this can become chronic. It can even lead to personality disorders in the child.
Parental Alienation counts as child abuse. If you believe a parent is alienating their child it is important to step in.
So What Can You Do Now?
Be aware of Parent Alienation Syndrome.
Distancing of a child from one of their parents by the other is extremely damaging. We can see symptoms of this in the behavior in both the alienating parent and their child.
Does any of this seem familiar to you? If this concerns you, it might be time to revisit your custody agreements.
Feel free to contact us for more information. We’re here to help!