Parental Alienation; the programming of a child by a parent to turn the child against the other parent has three levels of alienation mild, moderate, and severe. As the alienation increases the negative behavior of the children towards the targeted parent also increases. The percentage of children having access and parenting time (visitation) with the alienated parent decreases.
In a case study of thirty highly conflicted divorce and custody cases, submitted by the courts involving fifty nine children was evaluated to determine the existence of Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is when the child aligns with the alienating parent, adopts their views, joins in the defaming of the target parent and rejects that parent citing frivolous and irrational reasoning. Countering Parental Alienation Syndrome will take the knowledge of Parental Alienation and finesse.
This must be confronted to increase the chances for the target parent in reuniting and maintaining a meaningful relationship with their children. Janelle Burrill compiled, analyzed and evaluated the data for one year (2000-2001) from the cases that were submitted from a two year period (1998-2000). In the study twenty two children were listed under the mild alienation category, seventeen in the moderate category, and twenty in the severe.
The children listed under the mild alienation category show that eighty two percent of them expressed affection for the targeted parent. None of them had any anger towards or denigrated (disrespect and reject) the parent. Ninety five percent had parenting-time with the target. With mild alienation there is some cynicism of the target parent. This generally arises from a persons lack of restraint in making negative remarks about the target. They tend to react in this manner when they are hurt, angry, and feel personally attacked. For example, when parents first separate mom is feeling anxious and will implicitly convey to the children that their father is a bad person suggesting that it is not safe to be with him. She may say something to the effect of, “If you get scared or are not having fun call me right away and I will come and get you and bring you home.”
Dad may say something like, “Remember to tell your mother that you want to spend more time with me,” Suggesting that their mom is trying to separate them from each other. Generally, this behavior from the parents is done so they can look like they are the better parent to be with and that something is wrong with the other one.
In the scenario with mom the children start to question if they are safe to be with their father. With dad they can start to believe their mother is trying to estrange them from their dad. Usually when you point out the alienation to the alienating parent they feel ashamed that their behavior is negatively affecting the children and that they did not have enough self-control to refrain from distributing alienation.
Parents and children in this category normally have a good relationship. The parents who hands out the alienation usually are unaware they are doing it. It is a behavior that has not been addressed so it can be corrected. These parents are usually willing to modify their behavior to benefit the children. The recognizable denigration traits in mild alienation are sighing in disapproval, rolling the eyes in contempt, ignoring, disrespect, snide or sarcastic remarks, and defaming the target parent. To defuse the alienation explain to the children why people will make those kinds of gestures and bad-mouth another person. Let them know it comes from when they feel disrespected, rejected, hurt by a person, and that they lack self-control and respond in undesirable ways to validate themselves.
In the moderate alienation category the percentage of children who had parenting-time with the target parent drops significantly from ninety five percent down to sixty five percent. The same percentage of children also expressed affection for the target parent with fifty nine percent of them expressing anger towards the target and joining in the denigration of that parent.
With moderate alienation the alienating parents have difficulty keeping their composer when thing do not go their way or feel threatened. Like the belief their counterpart is trying to take the children away from them. They will increase the alienation when their anxiety escalates in an effort to keep what they perceive is rightfully theirs. When they lose control they go ballistic disregarding appropriate boundaries, including the fear their behavior produces in the children.