Parental alienation refers to the manipulation of a child by one parent to disparage the other parent in an effort to undermine or interfere with the child’s relationship with the targeted parent. Parental alienation is often a sign that the disparaging parent is unable to separate the couple’s conflict from the needs of the child. If allowed to continue, parental alienation often results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent and, subsequently, the loss of a capable, loving parental figure. Parental alienation syndrome, the term that one psychiatrist developed over 20 years ago in response to this pervasive problem, has the very real potential of harming the child’s psyche and emotional wellbeing in the present and well into the future. For this reason, the courts take parental alienation very seriously and are willing to reduce the offending parent’s custody time or eliminate it altogether.
What Constitutes Parental Alienation
Parental alienation takes many forms and one or several may be present in any given case.
According to Psychology Today, parental alienation is an often-overlooked form of abuse, as tactics offending parents use are equivalent to extreme psychological maltreatment. Some common forms of parental dissention include the following:
- Bad-mouthing the targeted parent in front of the child or directly to the child;
- Limiting contact with the targeted parent;
- Coercing the child to reject the other parent’s affections;
- Attempting to erase the other parent from the child’s life;
- Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous;
- Creating the impression that the targeted parent does not care for the child;
- Forcing the child to choose “sides” by means of threats or withdrawal of affection; and
- Belittling the targeted parent’s extended family.
Research strongly supports the theory that these tactics are tantamount to spurning, isolating, terrorizing, exploiting, or corrupting.
The Negative Effects of Parental Alienation
Since researchers have begun to study the phenomenon of parental alienation, they have found many disturbing patterns in the afflicted children. For one, parental alienation is a serious mental condition that is founded on the belief that the targeted parent is dangerous and undeserving. This condition, if allowed to continue, often results in self-hatred, low self-esteem, depression, lack of trust, and substance abuse. The self-hatred is particularly prevalent in children who are the victims of parental alienation as they are forced to grow up thinking that the targeted parent did not love or want them. This belief may cause depression as well, as victimized children never have the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent or even to talk about them with their other parent or family members.
Studies show that alienated children go on to have conflicted relationships throughout their lives. They are often at risk of becoming alienated from their own children as well, and many go on to reject the alienating parent.
What to Do if You Suspect Parental Alienation
If you suspect that your child’s other parent is trying to alienate you from your child’s life, you need to act with extreme care and forethought. Make note of every instance you believe to be parental alienation. Contact an attorney and inform him or her of your beliefs. The right lawyer will review your documents, hear what you have to say, and, if it sounds like you have a case, do what is necessary to help you intervene immediately. To learn more about what to do in this type of delicate situation, contact the Boca Raton parenting support attorneys at the Law Offices of David L. Hirshberg, P.A., today.