Home > Uncategorized > Parental Alienation: The Evolution of Defamation and Defiance

Parental Alienation: The Evolution of Defamation and Defiance

Parental Alienation: The Evolution of Defamation and Defiance. A Couple of Contributing Factors

Parental Alienation is Emotional Abuse

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.

Education is the key: “Restoration Does Not Preclude Prevention” Dr. Warshak, 2010



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.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. j
    October 19, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    PA to me, is when tactics used by Alienator, surface and are not noticed by the courts and the court further ostracise’s the target parent because.. here is the Catalyst… Courts do not enforce Court Orders.. ie Custody Time, Phone Time, Skype, School.So Basically Courts are denying targeted parents notification-filed complaints of contempt of court orders via the Alienator. Further exacerbating the problem.Reprimanding for contempt of court is the 1st step to combating future problems..stop aiding the Alienator’s bad judgement..Being Alienated by the court system is equal to being alienated by the Alienator him or herself!

    • October 26, 2010 at 3:56 PM

      Exactly. Orders are not enforced. Oddly enough, families that endure parental alienation are depicted as engaging in mulitiple court battles. Not all stop to reason that one parent will not adhere to the orders. If one parent does not care about court orders, this forces the target parent to use the courts. Or, other parents that do not want to use the courts as they are privy that courts do not enforce the orders, have to sit back and watch their childs mental health deteriorate. Consequences should be in place but they are not. It is up the the target parent to point out that the orders are not being followed.

      Dr. Amy Baker in one study found, ”Even when targeted parents had the resources to pursue legal action and were fortunate enough to prevail… they were not able to take advantage of the rights afforded to them by the courts because alienating parents did not respect the court orders, the attorneys were not interested in or able to force the alienating parent into compliance. Apparently, once the alienating parent determined that this was the case, noncompliance became the order of the day, so to speak” . Dr. Baker is not the only study that found orders are not followed. ( Baker & Darnall 2007; Warshak, 2010 & Kelly 2010). Another study by Jafee et al. (2010) noted “a minority of parents who suffer from personality and mental disorders may ignore the court & spend their waking hours finding ways to exhaust the other parent emotionally & financially.” The minority that he refers to seems to be what some call the alienating parent. Obviously, you do not need studies to inform you. Most alienated & estranged parents already are aware. Good luck to you.

  2. pas
    January 12, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Some suggested that PAS has not been proven in science and or does not have enough data to support it. I suppose that those whom choose to ignore PAS also ignore “operant conditioning” which has plenty of science behind it and the fathers of the science behind it such as Dr. Skinner and Dr. Watson. So long before “PAS” was coined the term operant conditioning was proved in the facts of science. About 50 years or so…… Maybe we should call it parental alienation through operant conditioning to satify the one who needs a little more um well founded science.

    • January 12, 2011 at 8:01 PM

      Thank you for sharing. Good point. For parents that endure this phenomenon, I often think of Seligman and learned helplessness. Short version: He rang his bell while the dog was restrained. Then, when the dog was released and he rang the bell, the dog would not move. It appears some parents “find it is too futile to move.” The courts do not uphold orders, some helping professionals deem it junk science, others argue of what to call the problem, some fret over the word syndrome, or some think if PAS is a problem, then those who deem it a legitimate issue “must” be dismissing domestic violence. I thank God that support is growing and understanding is increasing. But, during the process of our growth, some children have lost a relationship with a parent.

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