ISSUES IN FORENSIC
Allegations of Parental Alienation
"Parental alienation" refers to divorce circumstances in which one parent - typically the custodian - alienates the children from the other parent.
When present, parental alienation can involve a deliberate, premeditated campaign undertaken by the alienating parent. Alienation, however, falls along a continuum. Alienation is not an "all or nothing" category.
Most divorcing spouses avoid alienation problems. They do so by discriminating between their counterpart's status as spouse versus parent. Such discriminations allow divorcing partners to conclude, "S/he was horrible as a husband (or wife), but s/he is the only father (or mother) the kids have. And the kids need him (or her)."
In some circumstances, however, custodial parents find it difficult to make the spouse-parent discrimination because of their elevated anxiety. As a result, these custodians assume their counterpart will mistreat their children as they supposedly mistreated them.
Because divorcing spouses withdraw from each other, they frequently resort to stereotypes of their counterpart. These stereotypes - and the rumors associated with them - persistently arouse parental anxiety.
Therefore, parents who appear to be alienating their children from the other parent may only be reacting to their own anxiety. Mental health professionals who assess allegations of alienation, without considering elevated anxiety levels, have committed an oversight.
Mental health professionals who conclude that alienation is present, and do so without evaluating both parents, have committed a very serious oversight.
If you are dealing with allegations of parental alienation, you may want to order a reprint of the following article authored by Dr. Campbell.
Why doesn't parental alienation occur more frequently? The significance of role discrimination. American Journal of Family Therapy, (2005). (Order article #21, Cost $12.00).
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© 2011 Dr. Terence W. Campbell, Ph.D.