In a high-conflict divorce, one parent may attempt to turn the children against the other parent. This phenomenon, known as parental alienation, can have a serious impact on the child’s well-being.
Review the signs of parental alienation and steps to take to preserve the parent-child relationship.
Five factors of parental alienation
Child psychiatrists have defined five factors that comprise parental alienation:
- The child refuses, resists or avoids having a relationship with the parent he or she rejects.
- The parent and the child previously had a close, positive relationship.
- The rejected parent does not have a history of neglect or domestic violence.
- The parent the child has not rejected has actively participated in alienating the other parent.
- The child shows behaviors consistent with parental alienation, such as deriding and rejecting the parent for vague or weak reasons, unwavering support for the favored parent, and lack of remorse for rejecting the other parent.
The specific behavior from the child to the parent may include anger, defiance, avoidance, stonewalling, refusing calls and visits, or simply cutting off contact.
Steps to combat parental alienation
Addressing parental alienation right away can help the child and parent retain a healthy relationship. The rejected parent may first want to ask a trusted friend, family member or therapist to intervene. If this measure does not succeed, the parent may need legal assistance.
A parent impacted by parental alienation should keep careful records of the alienating behaviors and shield their children from conflict as much as possible. Bringing this issue to court can result in consequences for the alienating parent.