Analyzing Parental Alienation as a Trauma


  • Parental alienation is a traumatic event.
  • According to researchers, parental alienation can be classified as domestic violence.
  • Do not give up on your child if you are facing parental alienation.

Whether you are divorced or a single parent dealing with the stresses of a custody agreement, you often are left dealing with leftovers of some sort. Whether those leftovers are a limited parental role in your child’s life or a limited amount of visitation, it can weigh on a parent, especially if the child is resisting your involvement in the time you are allotted.

Whether the behavior is inspired by the words of your co-parent or from your child’s misperception, parental alienation can be a traumatic event that causes psychological damage to you, while damaging communication with your child and the role you have in their life.

The damage

Parental alienation has been well-documented as a global problem and a threat to public health. According to Psychology Today, parental alienation primarily is considered to be an attachment-based trauma, where instead of serving the psychological and emotional needs of the child by providing stability, alienating parents use their child to meet their own needs.

This is considered to be a violation of the parent-child boundaries and trust, in how misleading the child serves only the best interests of the parent. It also is a form of psychological trauma that the targeted parent is forced to endure and is classified as acute, chronic and externally inflicted.

Edward Kruk, an associate professor of social work at the University of British Columbia actually classifies it as domestic violence, due to its dual nature as a form of child abuse and the principal source of anxiety for the alienated and helpless parent.

Kruk also identifies parental alienation as a form of complex trauma, due to how many parents who engage in alienation often are born in complex traumas from their childhood. This means that those that experienced some form of alienation as a child often perpetuate the cycle of abuse when they have children.

This often makes the targeted parent the emotionally healthier parent. They seem to understand that it is not in the child’s best interests to lose the other parent. However, because the targeted parent is subjected to the manipulations of the alienating parent, the targeted parent can find themselves worn down and on edge.

Defensive parent and unaware child

Alienated parents on edge can begin to become defensive. In parental alienation situations, they are forced to explain themselves in court, in therapy sessions, and to judges who are only interested in doing what is best for the child.

The problem is that the type of abuse that the child is experiencing is abuse that they are unaware of. They are most likely being influenced by their alienating parent to say certain things or behave certain ways, and it takes everything and then some for an alienated parent to plead their case to anyone that will listen. They get blamed for a child’s rejection, and wild and unfounded accusations can sometimes fly freely.

Don’t give up

As expensive as it may get to plead your case for more time spent with your child and as difficult as it may be to tear down the walls of resentment and rejection that the child and the alienating parent may have put up, it is vital that you do not give up.

Giving up is what the alienating parent wants. They either want the alienated parent to experience the hurt that they felt in your previous relationship, or they simply cannot accept that they have to share the privilege of being a parent. They see themselves as all that their child needs; that they are the only ones who can provide a loving and stable home for the child to grow and flourish as they get older.

The alienating parent does not understand the trauma that they are creating and the damage that they are doing to their child, or they simply do not care and find that the goal of hurting their co-parent is somehow worth the cost of hurting their child.

A judge’s goal in situations regarding child custody is to ensure the best interests of the child are met; that the child is given the opportunity to excel, to learn, to grow, to develop, and to prosper in a safe and stable home. Even after a judge grants a parent custody, they still have to co-parent.

There’s no way around that, and turning a child against their parent, in order to avoid co-parenting, is detrimental to the child, whether the alienating parent believes so or not. It is form of trauma and abuse, and it needs to be recognized, before permanent damage is done to the child.

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