The Alienator Aligns With The Child
Pathological Personality Disorder Is Not The Only Cause
Parental Alienation is like a three headed monster. Although the alienating process is driven by the alienator parent both the child and the targeted parent play roles. Some children seem to be more vulnerable than others and more easily manipulated and more willing to actively participate. Others resist efforts and strive to maintain good relationships with both parents. The interpersonal dynamics within a family will have a significant impact on the offending parent's success in aligning with the child against the other parent. In their scholarly study on both the Alienator and the Family see Kelly and Johnston's extensive exploration of the family dynamics and how they make a strong case that alienation requires more than just one parent's attempt to manipulate a child. This section focuses on the Alienator. Click on the Child and the Targeted Parent for more discussion on their roles.
Half of all marriages end in divorce. All are stressful and many are contentious, especially when they involve children and issues regarding custody and visitation. It is rare, however, that a divorce becomes so toxic that one parent will initiate a campaign to totally destroy the relationship between the child and the targeted parent.
It seems almost inconceivable that a once loving and nurturing parent would inflict such terrible emotional abuse on a trusting child because of a sense of rage and the need to avenge their feeling of abandonment and loss of control. But, of course, the offending parent's behavior is driven by pathological psychiatric problems. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is overwhelmingly diagnosed in such vengeful parents. But other disorders are also often diagnosed with such abusive parents. See the discussion on Personality Disorders for more information on how they interact with alienation.
In high-conflict divorce, many
parents engage in indoctrinating behaviors, but only a small proportion of children become
alienated (Johnston, 1993). It is important to differentiate between an "alienated" child who unreasonably rejects a parent from one who rejects a parent for a variety of normal, realistic, and/or developmentally expected reasons.
These might include parenting style, anxiety over the divorce, blaming
one of the parents, and the actual behavior of the unfavored parent.
Children can experience a wide variation of unhappiness and anger toward
an unfavored parent but it is really only in extreme cases that the
child is actually alienated.
The Alienator or Aligned Parent
Both empirical research and
clinical observation indicate that there is
significant pathology and anger in the parent
encouraging the alienation of the child, including personality disorders, problems with boundaries and
differentiation from the child, severe separation anxieties, an impaired sense of reality, and projective
identifications with the child.
Some of the most common actions, beliefs, and behaviors of the alienating parent include the following:
negative views of the rejected parent may be freely,
angrily, and repeatedly expressed
to the child by the aligned parent: “She/he never wanted you,” or “I was always your real parent,”
“You call me if your dad touches you anywhere,” “I’m sure he’ll be
late as usual.” The effect of the
continued drumbeat of negative evaluation of the parent is to
erode the child’s confidence in
and love for the rejected parent and to create intolerable confusion.
- These accusations might also be
expressed indirectly, covertly, or unconsciously and
might include innuendos of
sexual or child abuse or
that the parent is dangerous
in other ways. Whether such
parents are aware of the negative impact on the child, these
behaviors of the alienator parent
(and his or her supporters)
constitute emotional abuse of the
- Often, due to personalty disorders the alienator may honestly harbor deep distrust of the targeted parent and fear of the ex-spouse and be absolutely
convinced that he or she is at
best irrelevant and at worst a danger to the child.
Consequently, the child does not need the other parent
in their lives.
- Because the "good" parent often
fervently believes that the rejected parent is a real threat to
the child they will often try to block access to the child. Their
campaign to prevent access may include attorneys,
therapists, pediatricians, and
school personnel. The lienator may seek restraining orders and
supervised visitation. They may insist on installing security equipment
at the residence and finding
reasons to cancel visits when
court orders allowing contact are in place.
- Although aligned
parents might insist that the child is free
visit, the rejected
parents’ attempts to visit or
contact their child frequently are
as harassment. Phone calls,
messages, and/or letters often
are not passed on to the child. Information about school, medical,
athletic, or special events are not provided
to the rejected parent, in effect completely
shutting that parent out of the
- When the child does visit the
alienated parent the perception that they are “dangerous”
is reinforced by calling into the targeted parent's home every hour or so during a visit to “check up” on
the child’s well-being. The child is often debriefed after a visit to detect (and reinforce) any“negative” experiences or feelings as well as any interactions
involving angry or confrontative behavior by the rejected parent. Any
negativity is defined as confirmation of animosity or even verbal
violence toward the child.
- Another belief of the
alienator parent is that the rejected parent does not and has
never loved or cared about the child. These beliefs are continuously communicated to the child through anecdotes that the parent was never around when the child was sick, showed no interest in school, or failed to attend special events ( about which they had no knowledge.)
- In the most extreme cases, all references to the
rejected parent are removed from
the residence, including pictures (which might be tom
apart in front of the child to
exclude that parent). In such situations, most children quickly
learn not to speak of the
rejected parent. In response to requests for access by the rejected parent,
the aligned parent strongly
supports their angry child’s “right to make their own decision” regarding visitation.
Professionals Often Make The Problem Worse
Most often divorce is contentious and the longer the process takes the more toxic it is likely to become. It should be noted that the
longer it takes and the more contentious it becomes the more likely it is that the professional legal and mental health participants will to enable the alienator parents
to present themselves in a coherent and organized manner.
The nature of the adversarial process
encourages hostile, polarized, black-and-white thinking with little intervention. Perceived truths are presented as facts which only fuels and channels rage in a well observed and understood manner. The intensity
and duration of the legal fight may also serve as an antidote to depression, but may serve as encouragement for the professionals to dig in their heels encourage myopic thinking which, in turn, only encourages the alienation process.
Click here to read about the Targeted Parent's role in Alienation.
Click here the read about the Child's role in Alienation.
Table of Contents
- Alienator Personality Types And Parental Alienation
- Alienator Personality Types Perpetrate Parental Alienation
- Personality Disorders And Parental Alienation
- Personality Disorders Play A Significant Role In Parent Alienation
- Convergent Emotional Disorders
- The convergence Of Emotional Disorders Can Be The Key To Parental Alienation
- Family Dynamics' Significance In Alienation
- Family Dynamics And Individual Personalities Are Significant Factors In Parental Alienation
- Child Advocacy Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
- Child Advocacy is Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
- Therapeutic Intervention In Parental Alienation
- Early Therapeutic Intervention May Prevent Parent Alienation
- Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
- A Carefully Executed Plan Of Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
- Comments Form
- Share Your Story And Comments Of Your Experience With Parent Alienation