Alienation, Affinity, and / or Aversion? Poor Parenting and Child Preferences. I Just Like Mom.
Alienation, Affinity, and / or Aversion? Poor Parenting and Child Preferences. I Just Like Mom. By Monika Logan
(I just like Mom can be substitued for I just like Dad).
Children continue to endure emotional abuse and parents remain distraught. Nomenclature, nonsense and naysayers unite to prevent agreement. Nevertheless, one aspect remains stable; the description of parental alienation. Bernet, Boch-Galhau , Baker & Morrison(2010) defines alienation, “when a child allies himself or herself strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification. Similar definitions are provided by Johnston. She described this unhealthy bond as a, “‘strong alignment” [sic] meaning that the child consistently denigrated and rejected the other parent. Often, this was accompanied by an adamant refusal to visit, communicate, or have anything to do with the rejected parent.” Drozod and Olesen (2004) clear up another issue, the absurd notion that the phenomenon is only used as a diversionary tactic. Drozod and Olesen provide a lucid understanding. They note,”…if there is abuse, there can be by definition, no alienation.” They go on to show that the term alienation is used only in non-abuse cases. Why then, is parental alienation hard to comprehend? What is the reason for controversy?
Two issues contribute to a parent’s misfortune and a child’s unreasonable rejection to be discredited. First, a child has affinity towards one parent. Some findings indicate it is not possible to decipher and establish natural, age appropriate parental preferences from unwarranted loathing. Secondly, if you are a target parent you are responsible (in part, maybe a large part) for your child’s rejection. That is, you should know how to respond properly to most derogatory remarks. If you respond wrong and continue to do so, you may be part of the problem. Unlike domestic violence, where we do not believe the victim deserved the maltreatment; this is not the case in parental alienation.
Drozod and Olesen (2004) point out that after separation and divorce many parents are angry and make inappropriate statements. Common sense tells us that parents do make negative remarks about an ex-spouse. Yet, is it not possible that a handful of parents save remarks for a good friend? When the kids are gone? Maybe a priest? Sound too farfetched? It is rational that some parents will stop the remarks after they realize that defamation may lead to demise. Likewise, some parents will not stop. Drozod and Oleson (2004) describe a few disparaging remarks as situational. It seems safe to reason that situational remarks are not what the entire PAS commotion is about. The occasional remarks as they describe, “are understandable at the beginning…” True, emotions run high about a year after the divorce. When though, does the beginning come to an end? Perhaps we should decipher the difference between occasional remarks and chronic remarks. We remain baffled by the chronic cases and deem children’s pain a normal reaction to divorce.
Occasional remarks, in most cases, are forgotten by the child. Yet, as a reminder, parental alienation is not “most cases.” Yes, there are parents that emotionally move on. They realize disparaging comments are not good for his or her child. Drozod and Olesen (2004) identify what parents all over the world have been trying to name as ” PAS”, PA or some other acceptable or non-acceptable description. It is what may be described as –on the other hand. “On the other hand, there certainly are cases in which a very hurt and angry parent vindictively continues the alienating behaviors in a pervasive and ongoing pattern. When such a pattern develops the parent doing the alienating, over time, may end up contributing to the severing of the relationship between the child and the other parent.” The authors also point out that some parents may benefit from education and intervention; others will not. They report that a few parents are not aware of his or her alienating behavior. This unaware group of parents would benefit from education. Drozod & Olesen report that the parent’s alienating behavior may be from personal history and psychopathology. Then, on the other hand, as alienated parents describe; some ex-spouses do not care. They denigrate the other parent with malice and forethought. The badmouthing never ends. It is chronic regardless of the target parent’s efforts. I wonder if these parents also suffer from psychopathology? A history of chronic badmouthing may stem beyond “personal history.” Either way, the alienating parent probably will not seek help. Anyone in the helping profession knows court mandated clients are difficult to work with compared to voluntary clients.
Our concern should be alienated children. It is ideal to get the alienating parent to stop. The concept, in ” theory”, sounds great, but it is not realistic. We need to be reminded of the fact, “a minority of parents who suffer from personality and mental disorders may ignore the court and spend their waking hours finding ways to exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially Jaffe et al.” (2010). Critical thinking skills are vital. Yet, it is obvious, alienated kid’s heads are filled with distorted cognitions. They view one parent as all bad and the other parent free from any human error. Lastly, the concern of affinity; some kids prefer one parent over the other. Like it or not, it is a fact of life. This same “liking” occurred, perhaps unnoticed, during ones marriage. A preference towards one parent will be perceptible during particular developmental stages. As an example, my disposition is similar to my fathers. When I was five, I wanted to be around my dad. At age14, even with my father’s nature, I enjoyed time with my mother. However, affinity is not an excuse for alienation. A parent and child that share a similar disposition are acceptable. Alienating parents may not vocalize this bond, but they feel the bond. They also exploit the bond. They teach the child to ridicule and despise the other parent for trivial differences. Affinity is acceptable. Using likeness for taught aversion is unacceptable.