Parental alienation

From Academic Kids

Parental alienation refers to the situation when one parent has caused their child to express, at best, complete indifference or, at worst, hatred towards the other parent. In the vast majority of cases, the child has been alienated by the mother against the father. This occurs because the child is most likely to be resident with the mother and hence subject to the mother's influence. Fathers' rights campaigners have argued that there should be adequate resources available to recognise the condition and to ensure that their children are protected against this form of emotional abuse. There are two levels at which parental alienation is discussed: the legal and the medical.



There has been much legal and medical argument about whether the term syndrome should be allowed in connection with this type of emotional abuse of children. However, given its prevalence there has been a move to have it recognised as a specific syndrome - parental alienation syndrome. This is a position first advocated by the late American psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner who was prompted to consider as a syndrome the following cluster of symptoms:

  1. The child is aligned with the alienating parent in a campaign of denigration against the target parent, with the child making active contributions;
  2. Rationalisations for deprecating the target parent are often weak, frivolous or absurd;
  3. Animosity toward the rejected parent lacks the ambivalence normal to human relationships;
  4. The child asserts that the decision to reject the target parent is his or her own;
  5. The child reflexively supports the parent with whom he or she is aligned;
  6. The child expresses guiltless disregard for the feelings of the target or hated parent;
  7. Borrowed scenarios are present, i.e., the child's statements reflect themes and terminology of the alienating parent;
  8. Animosity is spread to the extended family and others associated with the hated parent.


In the United States, approximately 40 percent of children live without their own biological father. According to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, "usually judges are not required to make a finding of domestic violence in civil protection order cases."[1] (

According to Illinois Bar Journal, women can use court-issued restraining orders as a tool to get sole custody, blocking the father from visitation. It says this can be part of the "gamesmanship of divorce."

Legal systems usually require the views of the child to be known to the court. For example, in the UK there is a welfare checklist which the court must follow (The Children Act 1989 s.(3)) The first item on the list is to establish "the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding)." Fathers' rights campaigners claim that the courts do not try to detect whether the mother has alienated a child against their father and consequently the father is unjustly excluded from the life of their child. Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, President of the Family division, (i.e. the top UK family court judge) stated in (Re L, V, M, H (Contact: Domestic Violence) [2002] 2 FLR 334 at 351):

There is, of course, no doubt that some parents, particularly mothers, are responsible for alienating their children from their fathers without good reason and thereby creating this sometimes insoluble problem. That unhappy state of affairs, well known in family courts, is a long way from a recognised syndrome requiring mental health professionals to play an expert role.

See also

Stockholm syndrome

External link

Dr. Richard A. Gardner (

nl:ouderverstotingssyndroom de:Parental Alienation Syndrome


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