When a divorce gets particularly bitter, parents sometimes resort to parental alienation, using the children as pawns throughout the process. Kids wind up fiercely loyal to one parent, while rejecting the other, all with the encouragement and support of the favored parent. While the nasty feelings between adults may be justified, when children are pulled into the drama in order to boost a parent’s ego or to hurt a former spouse, it can be horrendous. What are the implications of this type of manipulation over time?
Psychiatrists report that parental alienation (PA) leads to serious pain for children of divorce. After all, when children are forced to pick sides in a divorce, they necessarily must choose which of two beloved parents to adore and which to cast off. This can lead to problems for children, including:
- Depression and lowered self-image;
- Inability to form trusting relationships;
- Substance abuse;
Detecting Parental Alienation
When PA becomes part of a child’s life, judgments become black and white. One parent is all-wonderful, the other is a complete ogre. There are no nuances, no benefit of the doubt for the targeted parent. Every word and action is immediately judged in the most negative of contexts, giving that parent no credit for any attempts at establishing a positive relationship. Researchers point to eight symptoms of PA:
- Targeted denigration of one parent;
- A child’s clear preference for one parent over the other;
- Flippant justifications of a child’s disparagements of the targeted parent;
- A child’s sense of responsibility to protect and/or defend the favored parent;
- A child’s apparent guilt-free judgment or ill-treatment of the targeted parent;
- Animosity toward the targeted parent that is adopted by the child’s family and/or friends;
Many of the children in these situations truly believe that their attitudes were formed objectively without the influence of the favored parent. This is referred to as the independent thinker phenomenon, and is symptomatic of the systematic brainwashing efforts of the preferred parent.
Strategies Parents Use to Create Parental Alienation
Researchers note a number of things parents do to create this vicious animosity, including:
- Undermining the authority of the other parent;
- Asking the child to “spy” and report on the other parent;
- Applying unkind or cruel labels to the other parent;
- Making comparisons between oneself and the other parent that puts the target parent in a negative light.
Long Term Effects
Parents who work to turn children against another parent often achieve their goal of creating heartbreak for the alienated parent. In addition to that, they cause horrific suffering for their children. These problems can last for many years after the divorce. Continue reading →