Anytime a couple is going through a divorce, things can get nasty. This is even more true when there are children involved and both parents want custody. Custody battles are hard on everyone involved and can cause lasting stress and emotional scars. But it can also turn abusive.
Parental alienation syndrome is a form of manipulation and abuse of the child or children in order to turn them against the other parent. It attacks the children mentally and emotionally, often using false allegations, blame, and negative comments in order to cause an estrangement between the child and the other parent. It is a poisoning of a child’s natural and healthy attachment to their parents in order to gain emotional control over the child and to punish the other parent.
Edward Kurk, PhD put it clearly:
For the child, the biopsychosocial-spiritual effects of parental alienation are devastating. For both the alienated parent and child, the removal and denial of contact in the absence of neglect or abuse constitute cruel and unusual treatment. … . As a form of child maltreatment, parental alienation is a serious child protection matter as it undermines a basic principle of social justice for children: the right to know and be cared for by both of one’s parents.
It is difficult to imagine how a parent who claims to love their children can do something so abusive and damaging to them. It’s important to realize that a parent who does this usually shows signs of other disorders – especially narcissism and borderline personality disorder.
Narcissism means that a person sees themselves as the center and the most important person in the world. They cannot understand or do not care about other perspectives or the feelings of other people. They will use any weapon they can, including their children, to hurt the other parent.
People with borderline personality disorder have difficulty dealing with their emotions. They are emotionally hyper-reactive and cannot process their emotions. They tend to blame others for anything bad in their lives and see themselves as victims. This often turns into them victimizing others with the justification that since they were hurt, they can hurt others. They will twist reality, make up false allegations, and try to turn friends and love ones against their target. They can be dangerous and lash out, even trumping up criminal charges in order to punish their ex-spouse.
Parental alienation is intentional manipulation and abuse. It harms the long term mental and emotional well-being of the children and the targeted parent. It is an indication of serious pathological mental illness in the alienating parent.
If you are experiencing parental alienation, you need to make your voice heard. This serious issue is not well understood in our courts and many victims of parental alienation struggle to find justice. One of the best resources for parental alienation victims is the National Association of Parental Alienation Specialists. It is an organization made up of legal and mental health professionals who specialize in parental alienation. They have many great resources and may be able to help you too.