What is Parental Alienation? Part I


People don’t have to look very far to see the consequences that are a result of a society living in disobedience and rebellion to God. Marriage has become a romantic notion rather than the lifetime covenant that it was created to be. As a result, divorce has become an epidemic and children are its greatest victims who get caught in an emotional crossfire as parents engage in high-conflict divorces and custody battles. If this weren’t bad enough, children are becoming increasingly like pawns used by one parent in order to cause pain, conflict, and destruction against the other spouse. Depending on the degree of conflict, there are parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who unjustifiably persecute, brainwash, and totally destroy a once loving parent child bond with the non-custodial parent. This is called Parent Alienation Syndrome and has devastating life time emotional effects on the children and the alienated parent. This paper will look at the behavior and characteristics of the parent or family member who alienates the child from his/her other parent; the process by which this is done and the devastating effects on the child. It will also look at ways to counter react and heal the effects and the relationship of those involved in this process of the parent alienation syndrome.

The Destruction of the Family


In today’s society, all a person has to do is turn on the television or read the newspaper to see the total destruction and downhill slide of morality. One would almost stagger at the statistics of marital discord where studies show 35% of people who marry will get a divorce and 18% of divorced couples have been remarried several times. What is even sadder is that multiple divorces are extremely common in the church showing 23% of reported born again Christians are also divorced multiple times. Virtually every night, 40% of children sleep in homes where there is no father and single-parent children are two to three times more likely to have more physical and emotional problems even 10-15 years after a divorce. Children born after 1950 are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and all sorts of ailments brought on by the stress of the destruction of the family (Clinton, T., Hart, A., Ohlschlager, G., 2005).


According to Psalm 127:3, men and women are told that children are a reward (a gift) from the Lord (NIV). Why is it then that the suicide rate according to Dr. Hart has tripled for adolescents since 1958 and even children younger than that are killing themselves (1992, p.7)? Our younger generations are also showing ulcers and an increasing number are turning to drugs, sex, violence, and alcohol. Forty-two percent of children during the age they attend kindergarten and third grade are left home alone with no one to care for them. Is it any wonder then since many parents are not physically or emotionally available, that children are making up their own rules and standards which are beyond their parents influence? Even things that parents think are good, such as iPods, cell phones, DVD players, constant educational activities, and sports are causing more and more bad stress. Children who are given too much time alone are also 50% more likely to smoke and experiment with drugs. They also are having more and more disciplinary and behavior problems (Hart, 1992).


Effects of Divorce on Children

A famous child psychologist, Dr. Lee Salk, once said “The trauma of divorce is second only to death. Children sense a deep loss and feel they are suddenly vulnerable to forces beyond their control” (Hart, 1996, p. 19). Most children of divorce will never have to face such a stressful event such as divorce ever again in their life. Although divorce is a common occurrence in our society today, still over 80% of children rarely receive any warning that this is about to occur to their own family (Hart, 1996). Some children will be subject to multiple divorces by their parents by the time they go away to college (Steakley, 2008). Following are some of the devastating effects divorces have on children based on Dr. Archibald’s book "Helping Children Survive Divorce":


· Divorce signals to the child that his or her family structure has collapsed and this makes the child feel very frightened and alone. The loneliness that children experience can be quite acute and last very long (1996).


· Since parents (many unprepared themselves for this event) are consumed with their own feelings, emotions, and how they are going to survive, it leaves them with a diminished capacity to parent their children to the best of their ability (1996).


· In a divorce, children usually feel conflicted in their loyalty to their parents (1996).


· Tremendous anxiety is brought about in the child or children regarding how and to what extent things will change living and being dependent on one parent (1996).


· In most divorces, there is incredible hatred and resentment between the mother and father of the children. This causes tremendous fear within a child (1996).


· Divorce also causes many losses in a child’s life. It may require a change of schools, home, neighborhood, and friends which all cause to some level a certain degree of depression (1996).


One of the largest factors in a child’s ability to cope is the hostility factor between parents. The greater the hostility, resentment and conflict, the greater the damage to the child. It is most damaging when the divorce is pursued impulsively or with great anger between the parents and children are caught up in a never-ending custody battle where the loyalty of the child to either parent is seduced (Hart, 1996).


What is Parental Alienation or PAS?