Parental alienation is caused by the psychological manipulation of an alienated child or teen into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect, or anger toward a parent or other family member. Usually associated with hostile custody cases, parental alienation is considered psychological abuse and inter-family violence, toward both the child and the rejected parent.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent programs a child or teen into believing that the other parent is not trustworthy, loveable, or caring. This unhealthy coalition with the alienated child targets the non-abusive parent. Consequently, the alienated child embraces the vilification of the targeted parent and expresses hostility toward them. As a childhood disorder, parental alienation syndrome tends to arise in the context of separation or divorce disputes between parents.
Parental alienation undermines the core principles of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. When verifiable parental abuse or neglect is present, however, an alienated child’s animosity toward the parent may be justified. In such cases, the parental alienation syndrome explanation is not applicable.
The manipulation of an alienated child, with the resulting psychological damage, can distort the child’s developing personality and subsequent life adjustment. Once parental alienation syndrome is identified, appropriate interventions are usually needed to avoid long-term negative impacts. Such treatment options include reunification therapy and parental alienation therapy that reverse the harmful programming of the alienated child.