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.”