Parental Alienation: The Sad Truth - The Men's Legal Center


Parental Alienation: The Sad Truth

Parental alienation is a term derived from Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)  first defined by child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner in his 1985 research paper to describe a distinctive group of behaviors in children that includes showing extreme but unwarranted fear, disrespect, or hostility toward one parent-the targeted and alienated parent

…a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against the parent, a campaign that has no justification. The disorder results from the combination of indoctrinations by the alienating parent and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the alienated parent.

It’s essential to know how to recognize the signs that a child is suffering from parental alienation:

A badmouthing campaign by the alienating parent can be subtle. The alienating parent states to the child, “I would love to buy you this toy, but I pay your mother so much support that cannot afford to buy this for you.”


When asked why they feel negatively towards the alienated parent, they cannot justify their feelings with specific examples, or their reasons are wildly untrue. Sometimes, the child rejects the parent for reasons that wouldn’t usually rationalize rejection, such as their parent’s appearance or food preparation skills. Once a  child has adopted the parent’s perspective, he/she will see no redeeming qualities in the alienated parent. In the child’s eyes, the alienating parent who is doing the alienating can do no wrong, but their feelings towards that parent are wholly negative and critical.

The child typically doesn’t experience feelings of guilt for the harsh treatment of the alienated parent. In most cases, the child will act ungrateful or spiteful toward the alienated parent and appear unimpressed by any gifts or favors offered by the targeted parent.

The child will borrow adult language from the alienating parent that they do not appear to understand. The resentment an alienated child feels towards the targeted parent can also extend to the parent’s relatives, who were once loved and are suddenly despised and avoided.

The rejected parent experiences the emotional loss of a child which is comparable to the death of a child. For the child, it is comparable to the early death of the rejected parent. The effects of parental alienation on the child can last a lifetime and the child is likely to suffer from depression or substance abuse in adulthood.

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