With technology infiltrating every aspect of modern society and a tendency for people to choose screens over traditional interaction, the idea of social alienation is one oft-discussed by sociologists and psychologist alike. Yet one of the oldest—and arguably most effecting—types of alienation is one perpetuated not by societal trends, but the oldest relationship in history: that between parent and child.

Parental alienation is the act of divorced parents attempting to turn their children against each other through manipulation, the shunning of visitation arrangements, and the act of bad-talking the ex-spouse with the children. Parents of divorce often engage in parental alienation in an effort to regain control when they feel they have lost it. However, this can have serious effects on the psychological health of both parent and child. If you feel that you have been a target of parental alienation after your divorce, the most important step is to seek legal counsel.

According to Psychology Today, the term “parental alienation” was first coined roughly two decades ago. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner wrote that it “results form the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrination and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.” It is most common following an angry or complicated divorce. In addition to the obvious limitation of contact or bad-mouthing of the other parent, parental alienation can include a set of strategies, according to Psychology Today, including but not limited to:

  • Forbidding photos or discussion of the other parent;
  • Fostering the idea that the other parent is dangerous or a “bad person”;
  • Forcing the child to choose between one parent or the other;
  • Threatening to withdraw affection if the child seeks a relationship with the other parent; and
  • Limiting contact between the child and the extended family of the alienated parent.

One psychiatrist told Psychology Today that in her research, she found that most non-custodial parentswho lost contact with their children “lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation.”

The Parental Alienation Awareness Organization reports that parental alienation can be seen as a form of abuse, and should be fought by the alienated parent in an effort to maintain the mental health of his or her child.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of parental alienation, do not go through it alone. Contact a DuPage County family law attorney today.