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Parental Alienation

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What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation lacks a single definition as there can be varying contributing factors and impacts. Generally, parental alienation is considered to be when a child is manipulated by one parent to display unjustified feelings of hatred, dismay and disrespect towards the other parent.

Parental Alienation is something that can often occur, but not many people are aware of what it is, the signs of it and what detriment it can have to both children and parents lives.

What are the signs of parental alienation?

Psychiatrist Dr Richard Gardner established the ‘Eight Symptoms of Parental Alienation’, stating that these were a checklist of red flags.

  1. A campaign of Denigration

The child will join the alienating parent in unfairly criticising things that the alienated parent does.

  1. Weak, frivolous and absurd rationalisations

The child’s justifications for their negative view of the alienated parent often lacks substance and has no reasoning.

  1. Lack of ambivalence about the alienated parent

The animosity towards the alienated parent lacks consistency and is not what is seen as normal to human relationships.

  1. The ‘independent thinker’ phenomenon

The child will assert that their decision to reject the alienated parent is their own.

  1. Absence of guilt

The child will show a guiltless disregard for the feelings of the alienated parent.

  1. Reflexive support for the alienating parent in parental conflict

The child will always align with the alienating parent if there is ever conflict between parents.

  1. Presence of the borrowed scenario

The child’s statements will often reflect things said by the alienating parent and appear pre-planned.   

  1. Rejection of the extended family

The animosity shown towards the alienated parent will often spread to the extended family of that parent.

Psychologist Dr Amy J. L. Baker established a four-factor model of parental alienation and stated that for parental alienation to be present, the following four factors must be established:

  1. A prior positive relationship between child and rejected parent
  2. Absence of maltreatment
  3. Use of alienating behaviours by the favoured parent
  4. Presence of behavioural manifestations of the alienation in the child.

What detriment can parental alienation have?

It has been found that children who have been subject to parental alienation are 2-3 times more likely to suffer psychosocial problems in later life. The long-term risks to the children can include low self-esteem, self-hatred and depression is 70% more likely.

Children often need secure attachments with both parents to enable their needs to be met. When one parent is alienated, the child subsequently loses their relationship and bond with that parent which will have negative impacts on both the child and the parent.

What can I do if I think I am a parent that is being alienated?

The Courts take this matter very seriously and applications to the Court can be made to consider what it is in the best interests for the child, and in some circumstances whether the residence of the child should be transferred.

It is often required for psychological experts to become involved in cases to establish the parental alienation and what interventions are most suitable for the family.

It has been stated that strict sanctions are needed for non-compliance with child arrangements orders when parental alienation is a contributing factor.

Early intervention is very important where there is parental alienation and therefore contact should be made with solicitors as soon as possible.

Our team at Johnson Astills have a detailed knowledge of this area of the law. If you would like further advice and information, contact our client services on 0800 0590 600 to arrange an appointment with a member of our Family Law Team and discover how we can assist you.