Food for Thought: Parental Alienation Syndrome
This article is the first of a two part series.
Today, I will describe Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and list the signs. Next week I will discuss some steps to combat the problem.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent.
It is appearing more frequently than ever in divorce cases.
The purpose of the alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the other parent.
Although either sexed parent may perpetrate this emotional abuse, in the majority of cases, the mother is usually responsible. This alienation also extends to the other parent’s family and friends as well.
It is understandable for children to become alienated from a parent because of neglect, abuse or abandonment.
In cases of PAS, the child has no reason to change their feelings for the targeted parent except to please the alienating parent. Children going through divorce are emotionally fragile and easily manipulated.
Children that begin to adopt the alienating parent’s negative attitudes toward the targeted parent and reflect it in their behavior toward that parent are displaying PAS. These symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe.
The prime purpose behind the alienating parent’s behavior is revenge. The alienating parent’s behavior is often more severe if the mother believes the father has left her for another woman or the father now has a new wife or girlfriend.
This can be brought on by a sense of loss or fear. Whatever the reason when the parent takes the need for revenge at this level it is a sign of emotional instability and should call into question their ability to nurture the needs of their children.
The disturbed parent must have the children “on their side” and performs a “parentectomy” on the other parent. The seriousness of the hatred is irrational.
Alienating parents have lost sight of the needs of their children and view them as objects to be won or lost in the courtroom.
Are You An Alienating Parent? You might be if you:
- Allow the child to talk negatively or disrespectfully about the other parent.
- Set up tempting alternatives that interfere with the other parent’s time with the child.
- Tell the child details about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce.
- Resist or refuse to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities.
- Blame the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family, changes in lifestyle or having a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Share the details of the divorce settlement with the child.
- Infringe on the other parent’s time with excessive phone calls or scheduled activities.
- Ask the child to lie to the other parent or betray the parent’s trust in the child.
- Give the child decision making power about spending time with the other parent when no choices exists.
- Ask the child to choose one parent over the other or react with hurt or sadness to the child having a good time with the other parent.
- Use the child to spy or gather information for your own use or ask the child about the other parent’s personal life.
- Make demands on the other parent that are contrary to court orders.
Alienating behavior needs to be identified as early as possible and stopped. Divorce is a painful experience for everybody and there is a normal amount of anger toward parents.
However, this anger should never result in the breakdown of a parent-child relationship.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted a 827-0700.