Parental Alienation & Its Impact on Fathers
By Katie Davis
It’s time to stop debating whether or not parental alienation exists. It does.
Many psychologists and law professionals now consider this type of alienation and its affect on children to be a condition. Because this usually occurs when a parent with more custodial duties alienates a child from the other parent, and because men still represent the larger group of non-custodial parents, fathers are disproportionately the victims in such a scenario.
In an article for Psychology Today in 2013, Dr. Edward Kruk mentions that “Parental alienation involve the ‘programming’ of a child by one parent to denigrate the other ‘targeted’ parent in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child.”
In other words, parental alienation comes about when one parent puts his or her own needs and emotions above the best interest of the child. The end result is a confusion, hurt and a child or children who have quite a damaged relationship with the other parent involved – again, this is usually the father.
The Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, also known as PAAO, also refers to parental alienation as hostile aggressive parenting. PAAO points out that parental alienation does not always come about from the verbal manipulations of one parent, but can be caused by non-verbal actions as well.
“The destructive actions by an alienating parent or other third person (like another family member, or even a well-meaning mental health care worker) can become abusive to the child – as the alienating behaviors are disturbing, confusing and often frightening to the child and can rob the child of their sense of security and safety leading to maladaptive or psychiatric reactions,” reported PAAO.
Divorce attorneys who deal with multiple custody cases and high-conflict situations are used to seeing examples of such parental alienation and hostile aggressive parenting take place.
As principal partner of domestic litigation firm Cordell & Cordell, Joseph Cordell has seen many such cases and alienated parents. In a recent column for The Huffington Post titled “Is Your Ex Turning Your Child Against You?” Cordell points out that recent studies have shown parental alienation in about 11 to 15 percent of all divorces involving children and custody.
Severe cases have come to be referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), although it is not yet officially recognized. Cordell points out the seriousness of ignoring this relationship-, and often, life-damaging condition. He notes that it still is difficult to present before a court.
“While PAS is still not officially recognized, the subject has become more popularized as it makes its way into the mainstream,” said Cordell. “However, it is incredibly difficult to diagnose, even harder to reverse and still challenging to get taken seriously in court.”
Toward the end of the article, Cordell makes sure to let parents know that they should seek the guidance of psychologists familiar with the condition if they seriously think their children are being affected and alienated away from them.
“While separating couples can obviously harbor animosity towards each other, it is your duty to protect your children from the fallout of divorce. Even sarcastic comments about your ex made in passing can be damaging to your children’s psyche, and it is extremely detrimental to their mental health when it gets to the level of PAS.”
My husband has two children with his now ex-wife. I learned about this years ago when he was trying to gain custody of his kids. His ex claimed spousal abuse, and the courts believed her. We hired a GAL to talk with the kids. At that time we had them full time, as the mom had tried to move them without telling my husband, but the ex spilled the beans two days before. The GAL talked to us, to the kids, and to the ex. She, again, fed the GAL a line of years of abuse. We learned she talked to the parents of his ex, and her second ex-husband. She didn’t talk to one single person we asked her to talk to. She presented to the court, that it was in the best interest of the children to be with their mom. They have no rules, no consequences, can come and go as they please. They were screamed at, beaten, neglected, you name it. Neither one of his kids speak to him anymore. They’ve told him he was never fair, as well as unreasonable. The 18 year old daughter is now on drugs, cuts, talks of suicide constantly, can’t keep a job, and has the maturity of a 12 year old. The 15 year old son has flunked 9th grade, in one semester, he missed 52 days of school. He’s been suspended numerous times in the last few years. Has pulled a knife on two family members, and throws knives at his sister and mom when he gets mad. A year ago, we told him he was no longer allowed to live with us, as I am very scared of him.
The courts truly don’t understand anything about parental alienation! Now, not only is the mother of these kids a mental case, so are the two kids. We don’t think the daughter will ever be a contributing citizen to society, and we’re afraid the son may end up in prison, if he doesn’t get a grasp on being a normal part of society. They both need to do a 180.
It’s heartbreaking to say the least!!! A dad loses both his kids, and society has two more people who most likely will never be contributors as adults, but feed off of welfare and need mental health care for the rest of their lives.
Thank you GAL for NOT doing your job, and the courts for turning a deaf hear to a great dads voice.
I experience this all the time our son has activities that either she doesn’t tell me or tells me at the last minute. Actions speak louder than words i always say. She deliberately withholds information So When i’m unable to make it i’m chastised that i’m not there for my son and he doesn’t see me because of the alienation from his life. yet the new man that’s in my son’s life has been to every function and my son asks why i don’t come my other daddy does. We aren’t legally divorced yet and already my son has another daddy. So i now contact the school by email and ask for a calendar of events i care for my son very deeply and its saddening to see that our actions during this divorce has caused him confusion. After reading this artical i understand more of why she does this. its not in the best interest of my son to be turned away from me….. i will overcome!!
Great article. Except it is no only the soon to be ex but the replacement works awful hard to supplement the soure and firs great because the kid now does not feel any loss, it’s easy, do not have to be REAL FATHER, but a buddy, who can only bring up feel-good things. No need for discipline. The way the kid sees it that He/She is getting somebody good, must be good , Mommie loves him ( a fantasy as well, all affairs are), so he must be good.
A father who has done nothing but forsake everything so the kid can grow up best, is easily brought down.
The hurt comes later, when this fantasy figure dad has to deal / work with reality. 24/7, 365 days, cannot negotiate life events. Now comes the sickness ( mental) of the mom to this hero.
My ex-wife is doing this very thing to our children in regards to parental alienation. She is telling the children untrue stories about me and not informing me of school functions that the children want me at, then she tells the children and other people that I don’t care about the kids and won’t come to their programs and activities. The children are having a struggle emotionally with it and I am worried about my kids.