Before I touch on the problems suffered by children exposed to parental alienation, I'd like to address briefly the motivational factors that cause PAS:
There are many motivational factors that influence the beliefs and behavior the parent who is the alienator/brainwasher. Below are some of the most common factors that instigate the process and often more than one of them is at work. The following factors are from Clawar and Rivlin’s book Children Held Hostage:
Revenge: One of the biggest, most common and powerful motivational factors for programming children is revenge against the targeted parent. Feelings of revenge may be perceived (such as unresolved issues from the parents own family of original) or may come from unresolved feelings of rejection, helplessness, jealousy, possessiveness that the revengeful parent experienced in their marriage or the parent is unable to resolve these issues in a healthy manner. Getting revenge for their anguish, they exclude the parent from the child’s life (1991).
Fear of losing the child: One example is when the parent becomes unwilling to share the child when the targeted parent remarries. This parent already perceives threats to their own relationship with their child but now feels that the targeted parent is trying to replace them and remove them from the situation altogether (1991).
Jealousy: Some parents may have initially had a workable relationship until the targeted parent starts dating and there is an imagined fear that this new person will steal the child from the parent (1991).
There are many other reasons such as loss of identity where a mother or father’s only role has always been taking care of the child and now that divorce has caused a total change in everyone’s role, the parent suffers a loss of identity unless they can win a complete alliance of their child (1991).
Problems Suffered by Children
Below are some of the specific problems of children that suffer from the effects of parental alienation. The degree in which they suffer these problems has a lot to do with the age they were first subject to it, the developmental period they were going through and the duration and extent of the alienation that they were subjected to. There is no doubt though that children who were exposed to PAS carried many problems into their adult life. It must be said that despite the negative impact that PAS has amongst its victims, that many children did very well academically and focused their frustrations into being successful in sports and other activities (Baker, 2007).
There are specific areas that all children suffered in or with. The more severe the alienation, the more of the following issues the children struggled with according to Amy Baker.
Anger is a very common reaction of most of the children subjected to the process of parental alienation. Although the anger is usually expressed toward the target parent, the fact the children are forced causes severe distress and frustration and the response is usually to show aggressive behavior towards the targeted parent in order to accommodate the alienating parent (2007).
Children who suffer from PAS often turn to delinquent behavior. During the process there is a lack of impulse control in their conduct (2007).
Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem (2007).
Children very young who have been programmed to hate one of the parents will tend to suffer clinging and separation anxiety (2007).
Developing fears and phobias. Many children fear abandonment since they have already been programmed that one of their parents has in several ways abandoned them. This can result in phobias when attending school and they are separated from the adult who claims they are the only one who truly cares for the child. Some children will suffer from hypochondriacal disorders and tend to develop psychological symptoms and physical illnesses. They also fear what will happen in the future if the something happens to the only “good parent”(2007).
Depression and suicidal ideation often occurs when children are so unhappy about the breakup of their parents and are further faced with the animosity between the targeted and alienating parent. This ambivalence and uncertainty can sometimes bring about suicidal attempts due to the unhappiness which the child feels brought about by the two main adults in their life (2007).