Divorce is always a nasty business. It can get even nastier when there’s a child or children involved. It can get even nastier than that when one parent pits a child against the other. This is called parental alienation.
In fact, if you’re a divorced father who feels his child is being alienated from him by an ex-spouse, you should seek out the consul of a family lawyer right away. The end of a marriage can be very emotionally problematic for both couples and their child or children. This especially holds true when child custody becomes an issue.
In an ideal situation, a divorcing couple will determine on their own who the child will live with. They will also come up with a schedule detailing how and when the child will spend time with each parent. But when divorcing parents are unable to come to a reasonable agreement on a parenting plan for their child or children, a family court will have to do so for them.
Says a recent article on the subject of parental alienation, both the courts and legal professionals will acknowledge and even admit that the problem of one parent engaging in the alienation of a child or children against the other is not only all too common, but damaging to the emotional and physical well-being of the affected children.
Parental Alienation is Abuse
While parental alienation can be extremely damaging to a child in both the short and long term, it’s often difficult for the courts to act on it. Most legal professionals view such conflict as a child custody issue and not one that requires child protection.
What’s more, many legal professionals don’t view parental alienation as a mental health issue at base. This is a major problem. There are many different types of depression, and even more ways to cause it—including parental alienation, which is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM is widely known as the universal authority for diagnoses of psychiatric issues.
Two DSM-5 authors recently co-wrote a paper, the thesis of which revolved around parental alienation being diagnosed as “Child Affected by Parental Alienation Distress.” It may also be diagnosed as “Child Psychological Abuse.” The authors argue that this is precisely the reason they pushed for parental alienation to now be included in the DSM-5.
On top of this, the authors of the paper explain why they hesitate to use the phrase “parental alienation.” Their fear is that badly informed mental health professionals could end up misdiagnosing a situation as parental alienation when in fact, there could be the presence of physical abuse, exposure to domestic violence, or even sexual abuse.
States the authors, there needs to be a much bigger push for the legal professionals to “recognize parental alienation as a mental health issue.” If the child is then initially treated for the issue, there should occur subsequent interventions and treatments at a reputable mental health center.
In the end, there must be an immediate need for a wider recognition and understanding of parental alienation in order to protect the child or children from further psychological abuse.
Defining Parental Alienation
The experts define parental alienation like this: following the legal separation of a married couple, one parent (usually the “resident parent”) will deliberately damage and/or entirely destroy what had previously been a loving relation between the child’s non-resident parent.
There are said to be about 8 symptoms of parental alienation that manifest themselves in the alienated child:
Denigration: this occurs when a child is repeatedly complaining about the non-resident parent.
Frivolous Justification for the Complaint: the child makes up a non-justified or even silly reason for never wanting to see the non-resident and/or targeted parent again.
A Lack of Uncertainty: in all relationships exists a certain amount of ambiguity. No one is either all good or all bad. But in a case of parental alienation, a child might think of the resident parent as all good and the non-resident/targeted parent as all bad.
Independent Thinking and Acting: this occurs when a child goes out of her way in saying she came up with the reason for hating the targeted parent entirely on her own.
Automatic and Reflexive Support: the child will always take the side of the resident parent no matter what.
Lack of or Total Absence of Guilt: the alienated child will be extremely disrespectful of the targeted parent while saying and/or writing terrible things about him or her with a total lack of guilt.
Borrowed Scenarios: this occurs when a child repeats a scenario that happened to their preferred parent and that shows the targeted parent in a terrible light.
Spread of Animosity and Hatred: the alienated child will do her best to publicly spread hate about the targeted parent.