In a case in Mississippi and in other cases in states where divorced fathers routinely are granted less parenting time with kids than are mothers, some fathers are taking it a step further and claiming they are being alienated from their children.
Parental alienation, however, is not limited to fathers. Rather, it occurs when one parent turns the child or the children against the other by using various manipulative tactics. This type of strategy focuses on unjustified or exaggerated criticism of the targeted parent with the goal of damaging the relationship between the alienated parent and the children. Sometimes the alienating parent even makes false allegations of abuse against the other parent that can result in the targeted parent being jailed, losing his or her reputation and being legally stripped of parental rights.
Researchers estimate that parental alienation occurs in 11 to 15 percent of divorce cases in the United States that involve children, and note that the phenomena is highly overlooked, occuring much more often than once thought.
As noted in Psychology Today, Psychiatrist Richard Gardner was the first to speak of “parental alienation syndrome” over two decades ago. He wrote that it is seen in a “child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.” He further adds that “it results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.”
Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the children are unable to recognize the manipulation that is occurring and skewing their judgement and emotional connection with the alienated parent. This naivete helps to further the alienator’s ultimate goal of preventing a healthy relationship from developing between the children and the other parent.
According to The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk, parental alienation is particularly devastating because it can “permanently affect the bonds between parents and their children.” Organizations against parental alienation, supported by both men and women, have arisen to bring awareness to the often unreported incidents of alienation and to the ravaging emotional and psychological damage it inflicts on innocent kids.
It is their hope that if the growing problem is given more awareness, judges will be more equipped to notice signs of alienation early on in high risk situations.