Evidence for Alienation As Child Abuse

As the target of unacceptable behavior, the targeted parent may feel helpless, frustrated and depressed. However, in addition to addressing these feelings and the needs underlying them, the targeted parent has another, more selfless reason to find a resolution to the issue.

Alienation can have devastating long term effects on the child himself or herself. In other words, even though your child may seem “fine” now or even appear to be part of the problem because he or she is colluding with the other parent, recognize that the experience can be detrimental.

In their 2010 article, Children Resisting Postseparation Contact With A Parent: Concepts, Controversies, And Conundrums, published in Family Court Review, authors Fidler and Bala argue that severe cases of alienation can damage children, psychologically.
They acknowledge that “these are complex cases” and admit that “a significant portion of the cases in which alienation is alleged are not in fact alienation cases.” They also say that “for those where alienation is present, interventions will vary depending on the degree of the alienation.”

After an exhaustive review of the relevant scientific literature, they echo other scholars in saying that “More severe alienation cases are unlikely to be responsive to therapeutic or psycho-educational interventions in the absence of either a temporary interruption of contact between the child and the alienating parent or a more permanent custody reversal.”

Taking this line of analysis a step further, in 2010, Bernet et. al, writing in The American Journal of Family Therapy, argue in their article, Parental Alienation, DSM-V, and ICD-11 that “[approximately] 1% of children and adolescents in the U.S. experience parental alienation.” Citing an analysis of “professional publications from 27 countries on six continents,” they found that many independent professional researchers, clinicians and academics had come to the conclusion that alienation constitutes a form of abuse. For instance (our emphasis below):

• “Marie Helene Gagne, Ph.D., and Sylvie Drapeau, Ph.D., psychologists
at Laval University, Quebec, published “L’alienation parentale est-elle une forme de maltraitance psychologique?” (“Is parental alienation a form of psychological abuse?”). The authors proposed to use the conceptual and theoretical frame of psychological abuse to study parental alienation.” (pg 109)

• “The First International Congress of Families was held in Mexico City in August 2006. The congress participants…noted that the manipulation and brainwashing of children should be considered a form of child abuse.” (pg 116)

• “In Germany, mental health and legal professionals, institutions, and agencies use an important handbook, Kindesmisshandlung und Ver-nachl assigung (Child Abuse and Neglect). This book refers to the “Parental Alienation Syndrome” as a particular kind of psychological violence against children in the context of custody and visitation conflicts.” (page 114-115)

A 2013 paper in Psychology Today cited the Fidler and Bala and Bernet et al. papers (among other research) to conclude the following: “As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment of children, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness…”

“For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous and unworthy parent. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent.”

The irony, of course, is that it is the alienating parent who often suggests that the other parent has engaged in abuse or neglect. What this research suggests is that these kinds of accusations (when not based in fact, obviously) constitute the very kind of behavior that the parent wants stopped.

For skillful, experienced assistance handling your Parental Alienation case, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908) 738-8366.

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