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Recognizing Parental Alienation as a form of Child Abuse

Parental Alienation is where one parent and/or their supporters engage in behaviour that damages the child's relationship with their other parent.

It is important to recognize that PA is not some unique, isolated type of phenomena, it is really only standard 'relational aggression' (actions that damage relationships rather than actions that damage people).

PA is in fact usually just the typical; slander, ostracize and ridicule, 'character assassination' that many people commonly engage in with anyone with whom they are in conflict it is having children-in-common that makes PA a very special case.

Whereas the typical 'relational aggression' results in a person being ostracized by a particular social group or clique PA results in a parent being ostracized by their own children.

The children in this situation may be losing a relationship that is essential for their emotional stability.

It is a terrible thing for a child to be induced to ostracize a friend, who they know has done no wrong, just to be accepted by the clique but it is infinitely more devastating for them to be induced to ostracize one parent just to be accepted by the other.

Relational Aggression is often cited in studies as the primary form of aggression in which women engage however I doubt that most women need to be told this, I think most women would know from their own personal experience what the prevalence of these types of attacks are among women.

It is also critical to recognize that such alienations do not necessarily have to be the result of a concerted, deliberate campaign by one parent to destroy the relationships of the other.

An enormous pressure is exerted simply by force of circumstance if, in the child's primary residence, there is sufficient expression of negativity toward the non-resident parent.

There is a notorious psychological test called the Asch Test which illustrates the frightening Conformity Trait.

This experiment shows that, even in adults, about 70% of people involuntarily mimic the beliefs of the people surrounding them, even when they know such beliefs to be wrong.

A child who has to spend the vast majority of their time in a household where the belief that their non-residential parent is a 'loser', 'bastard/bitch', 'manipulator', etc is expressed openly and frequently would, in a large percentage of cases and without any volition on anyone's part, adopt the beliefs and attitudes of the people around them just to fit in.

We can only imagine how this effect might be magnified in the emotional uncertainty of family breakdown.

It needs to be recognized that the demonization, ie false allegations, re-writing of history, etc about the other parent in which many parents engage at the time of separation (and often forever after) is not a problem with the demonized parent - it is a problem with the demonizing parent and it is a form of abuse of the children.

It is also important to appreciate that many of the behaviours and pressures of PA are not obviously abusive because firstly, they are not all negative.

Praise and Acceptance of a child when they reject the other parent, can be just as powerful as Disdain and Derision when they don't.

Secondly, many of these PA behaviours are forms of 'passive aggression'.

However considering that all ostracisms are forms of passive aggression (I don't think anybody underestimates the power of ostracism) it would have to be conceded that even passive behaviours can be very damaging to children.

Withdrawal-of-love from a child, particularly during family breakdown, could be crippling.

If the two are put together and there is: praise and acceptance when the child rejects the non-residential parent and withdrawal-of-love when they don't, you have a very powerful cocktail indeed.

It is a poison chalice that, unfortunately, many parents give their children to drink.

Parental alienation IS child abuse

It IS child abuse …

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