March 10, 2019

The Impact of Parental Alienation on a Child’s Well-Being

According to Psychology Today, parental alienation syndrome occurs when one parent attempts to turn his or her children against the other parent. Typically, the parent who commits parental alienation is angry at the other parent and takes out his or her frustrations by painting the other parent in a negative light. Michigan courts frown upon parental alienation, as it is not only damaging to children’s relationships with their parents but also, it is damaging to their emotional well-being.  

Another article by Psychology Today explains how parental alienation can harm the well-being of children of divorce. Parental alienation often involves a set of strategies that force children to reject their other parent and to create the impression that the other parent is dangerous. These strategies—which may involve limiting contact with the other parent, bad-mouthing the other parent, blaming the other parent for anything and everything and/or telling the children outright lies, such as “Daddy does not love you”—force the children to choose sides and emotionally withdraw from the targeted parent. This emotional rejection of the targeted parent leads to the loss of a loving and capable parent from the child’s life.

Per findings published in Psychology Today, severe alienation is an often-overlooked form of child abuse. The tactics alienating parents use are equivalent to extreme psychological maltreatment, including isolating, spurning, terrorizing, exploiting and corrupting. Initially, the only person who alienation appears to harm is the target parent. However, long-term studies reveal that children who live with a manipulative parent also live with self-hatred, low self-esteem, depression, lack of trust, substance abuse and diminished capacity to give and accept love.

Both self-hatred and depression are particularly alarming in instances of parental alienation, as alienated children tend to internalize the hatred aimed at the targeted parent. Moreover, the alienating parent leads the children to believe that the alienated parent does not love them or did not want them, beliefs that may cause them to experience extreme guilt. The feelings of depression may stem from feelings of being unloved by one parent as well as from the lack of an opportunity to properly mourn the loss of the alienated parent.

Sadly, alienated children typically have distant or conflicting relationships with the alienating parent as well. Many go on to become alienated from their own children.