Parental Alienation

What is parental alienation?

 Parental alienation is defined as a ‘condition’. This condition usually occurs in divorce, separation and child contact issues. More precisely, it is the destruction of a relationship between parent and child. Often, the children align themselves strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) whilst rejecting the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification. The result is the child’s core attachment towards the targeted parent being severely disrupted.

Parental alienation involves a set of coercive and controlling behaviours that lead to a child emotionally cutting off from a “good enough” parent who poses no safeguarding risk to them. It is a form of domestic abuse involving the psychological manipulation and splitting of a child. Consequently, the child may show unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards the targeted parent and/or other family members.

Change has to come

The process of alienating a child from the other parent leads to tragic outcomes for both the child and the alienated parent, who previously had a loving and mutually satisfying relationship.  They lose the nurture and joy of that relationship for many years and perhaps for a lifetime.

Currently, the UK family court system and its government agencies neglect or refuse to acknowledge this form of abuse and damaging psychological issue in our society.  Consequently, families are destroyed and children develop serious mental health problems.  It seriously impacts non-resident parents, grandparents and other extended family members.

Other countries, such as Mexico, Brazil and Romania, have laws defining and sanctioning this form of child psychological abuse. However, although ‘alienating behaviours’ can be considered in UK court, the British law still does not acknowledge Parental Alienation as being a crime.  The closest we come to seeing PA in UK law is in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and the Serious Crime Act 2015. However, the wording is gendered in favour of women and girls, yet we know parental alienation is non-gender specific.  Furthermore, the DSM-5 and the ICD-11 address problems with ‘parental and child’ dynamics, and ‘alienating behaviours’ has been acknowledged as a form of child abuse from as far back as the mid-1970s.  The term ‘Parental Alienation’ is disputed, but we do not dispute the fact that it is real and very serious.

A five-factor model has been developed by leading psychologists in the field of Parental Alienation. This model, developed by Dr Amy Baker and colleagues, is often used to help identify the presence and indicators in this form of child psychological abuse and Intimate Partner Violence. These include:

  • Contact refusal.
  • Positive relationship prior to contact refusal.
  • Absence of abuse or neglect on the part of the alienated parent.
  • Alienating behaviours of the preferred parent.
  • Child manifesting symptoms of Parental Alienation.

For further information a copy of our leaflet is available for download here or please visit our alienating strategies page