What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is defined as a set of behaviors that are harmful and damaging to a child's emotional and mental health.
It generally involves the mental manipulation and/or bullying of the child to pick between their mother or father. These behaviors can also
result in destroying a loving and warm relationship they once shared with a parent.
Parental alienation and hostile
aggressive parenting deprive children of their right to be loved by and
showing love for both of their parents and extended family. Parental Alienation can occur in intact families, but is mostly seen in separated and divorced families.
Parents/guardians using alienation tactics to hurt the other 'target' parent
have been compared to cult leaders. They deny access to anything that may challenge their view of the other parent, including any photographs,
Professionals agree that the problem exists and it's damaging to children, and can affect
them into adulthood.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a psychological condition most often
observed in children affected by high conflict divorce and/or separation. It is
one of the most damaging outcomes affecting children as a result of exposure to PA or
Hostile-Aggressive Parenting. The most common symptom of children
affected by PAS is their severe opposition to contact with one parent and/or
overt hatred toward such parent when there is little and often, no logical
reason to explain the child's behavior. The effects of PAS can last well
into adulthood and may last for a lifetime with tragic consequences.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is different from Parental Alienation (PA). PAS
refers to the behaviors of the child, whereas PA describes the abusive behaviors of a parent or caregiver.
There are many debates as to whether PAS exists or is 'Junk Science'. believes that is for the experts to decide, we concentrate
on bringing awareness and education about the abusive behaviors of parents & caregivers, whether or not they cause PAS is not important, what is important is that
the abuse be recognized and stopped.
How can it happen?
During the crisis of divorce, most parents fear whether their children will
emerge unscathed. Any reasonable and empathetic parent sincerely believes in
the value of his or her children having a healthy relationship with both
parents. Ideally, parents deliberately work on comforting and reassuring the
children that no harm will come to them. At the same time, both try to
strengthen their parent-child relationships without degrading the other parent
or causing the children to feel divided loyalty. They encourage visits, talk
kindly of the other parent in the children's presence, and set aside their own
negative feelings to avoid causing the children distress. They are sensitive to
the children's needs and encourage positive feelings toward the other parent.
This outcome is the goal.
However, any number of events can destroy the fragile balance of peace between
parents. If this happens, an injured parent may seek comfort by aligning with
the children, especially since be or she may feel threatened by the children's
love for the other parent. A pattern of alienation usually begins without any
malicious or conscious intent to harm or destroy the relationship between the
other parent and the children. Though most parents mean well, they are often
unaware of how subtle behaviors and comments can hurt the relationship between
the children and the targeted parent. Alienating parents however learn how to
manipulate and use their children to hurt the other parent on purpose, and with
a vengeance. This can include anything from outright telling the children their
other parent does not love them and does not want to be with them, to
destroying and hiding communication from the other parent, to simply refusing
to act as a 'parent' when a child does not want to spend time with, or is rude
to, the other, and empowering their child to do as they wish.
In 1994, approximately 2.4+ million North Americans obtained divorces,
including the parents of more than one million children under the age of
eighteen. Nearly as many unmarried couples with children will separate. Thanks
to sky-high divorce rates and recent increases in the number and viciousness of
child custody battles, there has been a marked increase in parental alienation.
Children suffer from a breakup because they are torn, trapped, precariously
balanced, as if one wrong move could cost them all their parents' love and
acceptance. This can easily lead to disastrous effects on children. Various
studies show that youngsters exposed to even mildly alienating behaviors may
have trouble learning, concentrating, relaxing, or getting along with their
peers. They have been known to develop physical symptoms and/or serious
behavior problems. Clearly then, parental alienation is a threat to the mental
and emotional health of a child.
Some early signs of Parental Alienation:
Children perceive one parent as causing financial problems of the other parent
Children appear to have knowledge of details relating to the legal aspects of
the divorce or separation
Children show sudden negative change in their attitude toward a parent/guardian
Children appear uneasy around target parent - they resort to "one word" answers
and fail to engage openly in conversations as they previously have done
Children are uncharacteristically rude and/or belligerent to target parent
Access time is not occurring as agreed upon or court ordered - visitation is
being unilaterally cut back by the other parent
Hostile Aggressive Parent (HAP) parent undermines the other parent or speaks disparagingly about other
parent in the presence of the children
HAP parent starts making reference to other parent as being abusive and a risk
to the children with no apparent good reason
Allowing children to choose whether or not to visit a parent, even though the
court has not empowered the parent or children to make that choice;
Telling the children about why the marriage failed and giving them the details
about the divorce or separation settlement;
Refusing the other parent access to medical and school records or schedules of
Blaming the other parent for not having enough money, changes in lifestyle, or
other problems in the children's presence;
Rigid enforcement of the visitation schedule for no good reason other than
getting back at the other parent;
False allegations of sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use or other illegal
activities by the other parent;
Asks the children to choose one parent over the other;
Reminding the children that the children have good reason to feel angry toward
their other parent;
Setting up temptations that interfere with visitation;
Giving the children the impression that having a good time on a visit will hurt
Asking the children about the other parent's personal life;
'Rescuing' the children from the other parent when there is no danger.
To read more about Parental Alienation, Hostile Aggressive Parenting, go to our