Parental Alienation: The Evolution of Defamation and Defiance
Parental Alienation: The Evolution of Defamation and Defiance. A Couple of Contributing Factors
Parental alienation does not begin nor end in the courtroom. The sinister plan starts with one person requesting a divorce or wanting a separation. Consequently, fear sets in; the man or woman has to figure out how to regain their power and control. One way, is through their child. While protracted litigation adds more fuel to the fire, signing the decree will not finalize nor force parents to get along. The unhappy parent may use intimidation, threatening long-lasting legal battles. Or, others warn that they are leaving the country with the child. Some make false allegations. It is clear: parental alienation does not end once families leave the court. In fact, it is often just getting started.
One erroneous belief is that parents continue to quarrel and that both parents participate. Certainly, there is an adjustment phase about a year after the divorce. And, it is common knowledge that parents will slip up with an unkind word here and there. However, contrary to popular media; parental alienation can occur without hostile exchanges. In fact, one parent can be kind-hearted and go out of his or her way to keep the peace.
Some might label this as passive behavior. While it was acceptable to be pleasant natured in an intact marriage, if you are the target of a hate campaign, it will not help your plight. Actually, being soft-natured may lead some to conclude the target parent is part of the problem. Surprisingly, the aforementioned threats fits an all too familiar term—domestic violence. As a caveat, not all cases of DV include bruises, but they do share the theme of power and control.
One thing is certain; many alienating parents do not adhere to court orders. As a result, visitation schedules are missed. Missed time with a child provides more time for unholy alliances to form. Or, the alienating parent outright ignores the no bad-mouthing clause. Most agree that constant badmouthing is not good for a child’s psyche. Why would a parent ignore court orders? Answer: Because they know there are not any consequences.
Orders are not enforced for a couple of noteworthy reasons. First, the system is bogged down. Second are mixed messages. Parents are told it is not good to be “in and out of court.” Or, some target parents may simply succumb to the tears of their eight year old that reports, “please do not take (dad or mom) to court.” It is easy to understand, why target parents decide not to enforce orders that are repeatedly ignored. They logically reason court is futile. In other words, why hassle with enforcing court orders that will not be followed in the first place. If the situation entails a destitute woman, she will not have the money anyhow.
Lastly, for those that have resources to enforce orders, some have learned that efforts are pointless. Multiple studies indicate that alienating parents will not follow decrees. Baker & Darnall (2007) discovered that courts poorly enforced visitation and at times, the visitation was not enforced at all. An earlier study by Baker & Darnall (2006) noted the most frequent cited response, as pertaining to parenting time, was that favored parents did not adhere to court orders. Yet, again, another finding by Kelly (2010) indicated that favored parents do not follow through with court orders. Kelly pointed out that favored parents learn through protracted litigation, that courts do not enforce mandates such as parenting classes or therapy. It is no surprise that target parents believe the situation is one beyond their control (Vassiliou & Cartwright, 2001). The logical solution is to educate courts on the perils of parental alienation in conjunction with including this insidious form of emotional abuse in the DSM. Uniformity not only aids in common terminology, but would ensue systematic understanding. Parental alienation is an issue that is too often misunderstood and one that far too many claim is a nothing more than an unfounded theory or a slick cover up.
Baker, A. J. L., & Darnall, D. (2006). Behaviors and strategies employed in parental alienation: A survey of parental experiences. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 45(1–2), 97–124
Baker, A. J. L., & Darnall, D. (2007). A construct study of the eight symptoms of severe parental alienation syndrome: A survey of parental experiences. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 47(1–2), 55–75.
Kelly, J. (2010). Commentary on Family bridges: Using insights from social science to reconnect parents and alienated children. Family Court Review, 48(1), 81–90.
Vassiliou, D., & Cartwright, G.F. (2001). The lost parents’ perspective on parental alienation syndrome. American Journal of Family Therapy, 29(3), 181– 191.