What has been done to educate the public?

April 29, 2014

Parental alienation is when one parent turns the child against the other parent through powerful emotional manipulation techniques designed to bind the child to them at the exclusion of the other parent (Darnall, 1998) These parents create a “cult of parenthood” and, like cult leaders, they undermine the independent thinking skills of their children and cultivate an unhealthy dependency designed to satisfy the emotional needs of the adult rather than the developmental needs of the child (Tobias & Lalich, 1994).

The alienating parent and the child have an unhealthy alliance based on shared distorted beliefs about the other parent. The relationship between the child and the targeted parent is completely destroyed. The number of cases of severe parental alienation is unknown, in part because the concept is relatively new and there is no formal mechanism for measuring or tracking it (Turkat, 2002).

Researching scholarly peer reviewed article I chose to looked into the long term effects of parental alienation on adult children. By sharing what I have learned, it would support the need to change the way parental alienation are being handled in court, social workers, state agency, law enforcement and domestic violence community. The collaboration exists but only few are successfully handled and alienated parents end up childless, penniless and homeless.

In 2010, the Psychological Association of Spain classified Parental Alienation Syndrome as a mental disorder. According to American psychiatrist Dr. William Bernet, who proposed Parental Alienation Disorder as a diagnosis to the DSM - five task force members, alienated children refuse visitation as a primary behavioral response. In collaboration with over 400 clinicians, Dr. Bernet has documented that parental alienation is now a global reality. The study results were based on a survey of adults who recounted their experiences with parental alienation as children.

This is presented in the following seven sections: (1) low self-esteem/self-hatred, (2) depression, (3) drugs/alcohol abuse, (4) lack of trust, (5) alienation from own children, (6) divorce(PAS) can only be known over time and by then it is, in some respects, too late, the damage to the relationship has been done.

Ideally, the trajectory can be interrupted successfully to allow children to maintain healthy relationships with both parents, to be loved by them and loving with them. The data presented in this study can be used to help achieve that goal, by focusing attention on parental behaviors. Rather than taking a wait and see attitude, these parents should be encouraged to proactively address these behaviors both with the child and with the other parent.

Nonetheless, these outcomes are what the participants themselves believed to have been the effects of the alienation and as such they offer insight into their felt experience. Further, the findings discussed can serve as the foundation for future research endeavors that aim to isolate the effects of alienation. Furthermore, this foundation can raise awareness of this growing problem among the general public, judges, lawyers, law enforcement, social workers, child protection agencies, and, most of all, the children and families.

Cynthia Smith
New Castle
Delaware Coalition for Open Government, National Forum on Judicial Accountability, Delaware Domestic Violence Task Force, Delaware Healthy Mothers and Infant Consortium
past board member
Delaware Federation of Families For Children’s Mental Health

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