What is "parental alienation"?
« on: March 10, 2009, 06:01:04 PM »
Dr. Jayne Major, Ph.D., BreakthroughParentingServices.org
What is "parental alienation"?
The behavior of a parent that engages a child in a discussion
so that the child can either participate or hear them degrade
the other parent. Some parents are so upset they will reveal
too much information such as "court papers." Alienation
happens when the parent does not recognize the bounds of
what they can say or do.
Why do parents engage in parental alienation?
Parents that engage in parental alienation are acting out
their own drama and upset about what's occurred. For most
people, parental alienation is mild, and it's very common
in divorces, where an unkind thing is said, a name called
or something, where a parent doesn't have boundaries. Mild
parent alienation is, "you tell me if you get scared at
your daddy's and I'll come," so planting a seed that you're
not safe with your daddy. Another form of parental alienation
is saying, "is anybody over at your mother's spending the
night?" Parental alienation is being inappropriate with
those kinds of questions and fishing to find information
from the child that the child shouldn't be involved in.
So mild parent alienation often occurs and most people get
a grip. Most people understand it's not appropriate to engage
in parental alienation. Eventually somebody will tell them
parental alienation is inappropriate, or the child can adapt.
They say, "aw, there goes mom again." " Aw, there goes dad
again." They can cope with parental alienation. Not adapt,
but cope. In moderate parent alienation, the parent goes
ballistic and calls names upon seeing the person, or speaking
on the phone, and is just in a rage and a tirade about the
other parent and is terribly inappropriate. And if the child
sees this parental alienation often, they may be involved
in aligning against the other parent. So this form of parental
alienation is very serious, but those parents can be helped
with parenting classes, with mentoring, with therapy, with
anger management, with other things to enable them to finally
What type of parent is likely to engage in parental alienation?
We do know that even within a marriage parents maybe doing
parent alienation. This is anytime a parent speaks negatively
about another parent so that a child could here it. Children
can cope with that usually and adjust. When parent's get
a divorce its more frequent that that is likely to occur.
Unless the parents are really sophisticated parents and
understand it and have thought this through and don't do
that and we do have those people god bless them. Some parents
become so irate at the other parent that they just lose
all control and they go into a rage and the child witnesses
this and the parent in the moderate is likely to be programming
the child to also hate the other parent or never ever say
to that parent that they enjoyed any kind of time with that
other parent or they had fun with that parent at all. They
would never tell this parent that is so difficult anything
about the other.
How do I know if my spouse is actually committing parental
If a parent is engaged in parental alienation, it is more
than we are getting a divorce and we have got to figure
out a parent plan. A parent engaged in parental alienation
is a person who is obsessed, is very ugly, and nasty and
will stop at nothing to get their way. Now you really need
to figure out if you have an enemy engaged in parental alienation,
what it is that makes this person your enemy, and how can
you best protect your children. And at that point this is
more than ordinary stuff, this is the small percentage of
very sick people. Now you need to educate yourself because
you are in a different kind of a war when one party is engaged
in parental alienation. It's a lot at stake.
What is "severe parental alienation"?
In the most obsessed and severe kind, severe parental alienation
is where parents become ugly or nasty. You can't work with
them or solve problems with them by reasoning. Severe parental
alienation are cases where you have to go to court to get
any kind of resolution and these parents so nasty they will
allege all kinds of lies to get their way. This is when
what prevails in truth is often not the truth but what appears
to be truth. The parents will allege all manner of horrible
things, and they will take the least little negative issue
and turn it into a huge issue. They will create their own
reality and then they will end up believing their own fabrications
with all their heart and soul, and are very convincing.
Evidence, truth and facts are not part of severe parental
alienation because they've made up their own facts. The
fact that they are so believable is why judges have to rely
on evaluators to sort through all of that and come up with
How will parental alienation affect the targeted parent?
The person who's the targeted parent, wonders what the hell
happened here. Because that was never their intention, they
didn't marry this person or have a child with them with
the idea that the person could become so unglued and become
so ugly and nasty. It takes a horrible toll on the targeted
parent. Psychologically they have to cope with being accused
of all kinds of things that they did not do. They are always
on the defensive, they are always back peddling, trying
to figure out "what am I going to do about it?" Even in
the relationship, when they were in a together relationship,
there are some people that are so disturbed that when the
targeted parent tries to solve problems with them they get
a two-by-four between the eyes, and they back off and they
say "that hurt!" Then they go back and they regroup and
they try to solve problems with this person again, the nasty
one. By the way, it's men or women. It is not more women
do this than men do which is a common concept. Now that
there is so much shared custody, very disturbed men can
do this as much as women. So at any rate, whoever it is
it's a very disturbed person because healthy people don't
act like that.
How will parental alienation affect my child?
When you have a parent who's in the moderate or obsessed
category one of the things that they cannot allow is for
the child to love and have a positive relationship with
the other parent. Now, guess who is the healthier parent?
This is the target parent almost always. The obsessed person
is not a healthy parent. They're very nasty and ugly, and
they don't play fair at all. They will stop at any lengths
to win and what they're winning is the mind of a child.
They will brainwash a child (another word for it is to programme
a child) to hate their targeted parent; the healthier parent,
the other half of their heritage, the other half of their
whole family construct. Half of that child's family, if
this obsessed parent is successful, is now ‘x'ed out of
the child's life. We call that a “parentectomy” where the
parent has been cut out of the child's life; a “parentectomy.”
The child then loses all contact with the individuals that
would be most likely to love that child, nurture that child,
and care for that child, and provide. They lose out on all
of that and if the really disturbed parent prevails, and
they often do, this child grows up with a very serious situation
where one parent is psychologically disturbed. The characteristic
is always that the disturbed person is expecting the child
to take care of them. This is called parent role reversal,
where the child is always in the position to take care of
the most disturbed parent. So how does that help children?
How will parental alienation affect my child when he grows
If the alienating and obsessed parent is successful in their
agenda then the child will no longer have any access or
influence from the other parent, they will lose that side
of their family, that side of their whole heritage, and
they will grow up with a person who's a very damaged individual.
So they will not be adequately parented. We do know that
the picture is not a pretty picture for them in their lives,
that they will have many psychological issues, relationship
issues, they're going to have a very hard time in their
life. Just recently, Amy J.L Baker, a researcher in child
development that teaches college at Columbia University,
has published a book called 'Adult Children of Parental
Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind'. This
is an enormously valuable book for anybody that doesn't
understand parental alienation and what the consequences
are. She researched 4, adult children where passes had occurred
in their childhood and the outcome was really extraordinary,
to point out what, we need to do everything we can to get
a handle on what this problem is and how to do something
How do I prevent parental alienation?
Prevention is the key that, but in some people they're already
psychiatrically disturbed people. And usually people don't
know that when they start having babies with them or go
into business with them or any kind of other relationship
until something happens that the person really becomes crazy
- undone. So I don't know that you can stop. I think you
could do an awful lot more of preventing yourself from leaping
into situations where you don't know who this person really
is. Having children with somebody who is already difficult
is likely to turn more difficult. So it behooves people
to be very careful in their relationships with people. So
it starts right there. Know who you're involved with. Take
the time to get to know this person.
How do I cope with parental alienation?
One of the ways not to cope with parental alienation is
to be passive, because that's the trait of most people that
get involved with obsessed parental alienators. They just
don't know what to do. So go and find somebody that does
know what to do about parental alienation. You're not the
first person that's had the problem of parental alienation.
Believe me. There's a lot of literature available for people
with parental alienation problems. There's a lot of experts
that specialize in parental alienation. I say the best thing
you can do is educate yourself about parental alienation.
Go online. There's a lot of resources about parental alienation
online. There are also many excellent books about parental
alienation. "Stop Walking on Eggshells" is one of them.
There are a lot of helpers, a lot of mentors out there who
can show people the way to deal with parental alienation.
Join up. Don't stay in isolation with parental alienation.
Educate yourself as to what parental alienation is and what
other people have done. I have an article on our website
called "Parents Who Have Successfully Fought Parental Alienation
Syndrome." That's been on the website for years and years,
and it's gone all over the world. I've heard from people
that said you've exactly described my family. I have another
article that will be on our website called "The Cost, Causes,
and Controversies of Parent Alienation and Parent Alienation
Syndrome." Educate yourself. There's a whole education possible.
What is "parental alienation syndrome"?
Parent alienation describes what the parent is doing. Parent
alienation syndrome describes what the child is doing. It
is a very important distinction to make. They are not one
and the same. Parent alienation syndrome was originally
identified in 1985 by a psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Gardner.
He was the pioneer in parent education syndrome, when there
was a burgeoning of divorces in the early 80s, when joint
custody first became a reality, starting in California.
James Cook lobbied the California legislature for joint
custody laws, and they were passed in 1980, and then swept
the country as the concept that the best parent is both
parents and you have to figure out how to share these children.
Not one parent takes all the custody and the other one becomes
a visitor, not in the child's life at all. So many fathers
started clamouring to go to court to get access to their
children, and this created a tremendous burden on the courts
which has not been alleviated to this day.
How does parental alienation syndrome affect my child?
Another curious thing about children who are involved in
parent alienation syndrome. That means they're no longer
adapting and coping, that they've gone over and aligned
with the most disturbed parent. In some cases, it's a shared
psychosis that the child shares with the disturbed parent,
the mother or the father. And they become one unit. The
child then will make up scenarios of their own about how
horrible the targeted parent is. They have no basis in fact
whatsoever, it's nothing they ever experienced, but just
as kids can create wonderful stories and fairy tales, and
all of that, they use that technique to describe horrible
things that the parent has done, which in truth they haven't
done. And they can be very convincing, because they are
passionate, and they're angry. Their brains have been seriously
altered into such a state of confusion that they don't know
How do I cope with a child experiencing parental alienation
If your child is already in the syndrome and the syndrome
is where they are brainwashed, you want to stand up for
yourself and say, "That didn't happen." "You didn't experience
that." "I never did that to you." "You are loved by both
of your parents and I love you and I will always be here
for you." You know, there just isn't any kind of panacea
for these. If people really have the worst case scenario,
the only thing that's going to turn it around is getting
a judicial order for the other parent to be contained; for
the disturbed parent to be contained. This is why there
is such heavy litigation in these kinds of families. If
they can't litigate, if they can't get a judicial order
containing the disturbed parent, then they may just lose
How do I stop parental alienation if it is occurring?
The only way is to get a court order that would contain
the disturbed parent, and to get legal custody to the healthier
parent and to work with the family. There are actually protocols
that are being developed now because prior to this there
hasn't been anything that we know to do with the obsessed
parent, there's just, there's no protocol whatsoever, in
fact there still isn't. But there are being developed ways
to detox or unbrainwash or unprogram a child if they can
get it soon enough, but there gets to be a tipping point
or turning place where you're not going to really reach
that child. In Doctor Baker's research, she found children
that finally understood that they were brainwashed, and
so therapy, you know, a lot of times people's hands are
just tied. It has to be a court order, the judge has to
really get it, who the good guy is and who the bad guy is.