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Understanding parental alienation and how it affects children

Usually, children benefit from being in the care of both parents. However, there are times when this creates a problem, as one parent will attempt to use their children as pawns to harm the other.

This sometimes results in parental alienation, since a child may mistakenly believe one parent is bad or dangerous. They may also fear repercussions for speaking with a parent and avoid them for that reason. Here's more on parental alienation and what you should know.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is when one parent attempts to turn their child against the other parent. This might be done in one of several ways including hoarding the children, trying to prevent the other parent from seeing them and even causing estrangement by making the other parent out to be the "bad guy."

What are some risk factors for parental alienation?

Clinically, the people most likely to attempt to alienate their children from the other parent are narcissistic individuals who are absorbed in themselves. They may be overly focused on what they want and not necessarily on what is best for their children or ex-spouse.

There are some signs that a parent may be attempting to cause estrangement. For instance, they may begin to use their children as pawns or weapons, perpetuating fights and causing distress through their actions. They often claim that they are only protecting their children against a bad or evil parent.

Why would a parent try to alienate a child?

They may not intentionally try to alienate a child. For instance, an angry parent may constantly disparage the other parent in front of the child. The child could become angry or upset with the other parent, because they cause conflict that they then have to deal with. In other cases, a parent may try to manipulate a child as a form of control or revenge, taking direct steps to make them avoid or cause conflict with the other parent.

What should you do if your child's behaviors have changed significantly and you believe parental alienation may be occurring?

If you believe that your ex-spouse is causing alienation, you need to reach out to your attorney as soon as possible. There are child psychologists and other professionals who can identify this kind of behavior and help you report it to the courts. If your ex-spouse violates custody orders or is harassing you, keep documentation, so you can build a case.

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