Parental Alienation (PA) can be one of the most damaging aspects of a difficult, highly contested divorce. It occurs when one parent purposefully encourages a child to disengage with the other parent and/or denigrate the other parent.
PA can have severe and long-lasting effects on children including low self-esteem, self hatred, lack of trust, depression, substance abuse and addiction and a cycle of alienation.
The motivating factors can be any number of emotions surrounding the divorce including anger, desire for revenge, jealousy, feelings of betrayal, etc. Regardless of the cause, it is critical to identify a situation of parental alienation early to minimize the impact it has on your child.
So what are the symptoms of parental alienation?
Linda Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW identifies eight symptoms of parental alienation in her book The Parental Alienation: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration.
- A campaign of denegration. One parent convinces their child that the other parent is worthless, unloving, selfish, etc. through a systematic campaign (that may include things such as sabotaging, misinformation, verbal abuse of the other parent). In doing so, they convince the child they will be happier, healthier and more well adjusted if the other parent is no longer part of their life.
- Weak, frivolous and absurd rationalizations for the deprecation. The alienated child often has a “laundry list of vague injustices, deceptions, and disappointments which were allegedly inflicted upon them by their targeted parent”. While they point to these complaints often in response to questions about their relationship with the other parent, they are unable to give specific examples.
- Lack of ambivalence. Children suffering from PA are unable to engage in an objective assessment of the other parent, minimizing or refuting any positive attribute or redeeming quality they may have.
- The independent-thinker phenomenon. PA children take sole responsibility for their abusive and alienating behaviors towards the other parent and claim their negative opinions and feelings for the other parent were their own creation.
- Cruelty towards the alienated parent with no remorse or guilt. PA children evidence no remorse for the pain they are causing the other parent.
- Reflexive support of the alienating parent. When disagreements and hostilities arise between parents, the PA child will dogmatically side with the alienating parent.
- Presence of borrowed scenarios. Children suffering from PA seem to recite from a script that contains language and concepts well beyond their cognitive level.
- Spread of animosity to extended family of the alienated parent. The child’s rejection will often extend to all relatives of the alienated parent such as grandparents.
If your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors indicative of parental alienation, take it very seriously. Retain a lawyer who has experience dealing with parental alienation cases and work with him to form a strategy to combat the situation.
Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson understands that divorce is an extremely sensitive and important issue. Thanks to extensive experience and a focus on open communication, Attorney Jamieson adeptly addresses the complex issues surrounding divorce while delivering excellent personal service. To discuss parental alienation, please contact The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. online or call 561-478-0312.