Posted in Alienation

Brainwashing Children In Parental Alienation

Brainwashing children is a crime executed by a dysfunctional parent willing to strip children  of their self- esteem to accomplish  their own revenge against an ex-lover. Those of us impacted by Parental Alienation know that memories can be changed.  We have seen it happen. We have helplessly watched as our children’s self-identity is vengefully pulled from them, twisted, manipulated, and reprogrammed until a new person emerges that is consumed by hate.

Parents and children are both victims of mind manipulation by an ex-spouse obsessed with revenge and a burning need to assuage their injured ego.  They are motivated by avenging their sense of abandonment and their narcissistic need for adoration.

We have lived with our children and powerlessly experienced the deterioration of our loving bonds.  But, we rarely know why and how hate replaces the familial love that had always defined our relationship.  The complete reversal would seem unimaginable  if we had not suffered the pain of being victimized.  Instinctively, we know that our children have been brainwashed.  But, how? What is the mechanism or combination of mechanisms that enable one parent to accomplish such damage?

My research  combined with my personal experience has convinced me that the process of brainwashing children proceeds in a somewhat different manner than traditional methods exemplified by the model reportedly used on American prisoners during the Korean War.  These traditional methods typically require isolation of the victim combined with real or threatened violence.

These tactics are typically not used in cults; nor are they commonly used brainwashing children.  Children are inherently more vulnerable to different strategies because the abusive parent is betraying a child  who loves and trusts them. The parental betrayal is a most heinous  form of child abuse. Brainwashing children can be achieved effectively over time without the use of physical forms of coercion and control precisely because the abuse is performed by a trusted parent.

How Do They Do It?

How do parents actually accomplish brainwashing children?    Perhaps my conclusions are largely drawn from my own personal experiences. But, I have been frustrated in finding answers that address the questions surrounding the actual mechanisms typically employed by an alienator parent .  Are the tactics  conscious, overt, carefully designed attempts to manipulate or are they the result of an automatic response by  individuals with severe personality disorders who unconsciously are reacting to a highly toxic situation that is terribly threatening to their sense of self?

One thing seems certain–the offending parents seem to be devoid of empathy so they can neither understand nor be concerned about the devastation done to either the ex-spouse or their children.  They use their delusion of love for a child to destroy an ex-lover they have come to hate.

Not all children can be turned against a targeted parent no matter how hard the would-be alienator tries. So, what are the dynamics?

I have tried to identify how several significant circumstances and personality traits intersect to enable the parent actively involved in brainwashing children.  The following are my own observations and conclusions drawn from both extensive research and personal experience. I hope they help others trying to make sense when there really is none.

Programming A Child

  • A child’s brain is very malleable and the alienator is both a loved and trusted parent.  So, brainwashing children does not require isolation or violence ( although physical abuse is probably commonly involved. ) Therefore, if the parent displays the right personality traits and disorders it is fairly easy to negatively influence a child.  Some children will respond fairly quickly while for others the process may take years.  Although there may be preexisting issues between the child and targeted parent I am referring to parent-child relationships that, prior to the alienation, were very normal and loving.
  • When one parent attempts to alienate a child from the other parent, they are essentially teaching the child to hate and fear the other parent. Hatred of the targeted parent is the end goal or program. It’s like installing computer software—there are directions, procedures and instructions for how to organize information. For example, the targted parent is late for a scheduled child visitation pick-up. The programming parent comments, “A good parent who really loves his/her children would be on time.” This is a set of instructions that translates to: “Your father/mother is a bad parent who doesn’t love you.” This is a negative interpretation of what is most likely a neutral event, but the set of directions from the offending parent don’t allow for neutral interpretations like heavy traffic, a flat tire or being held up at work.
  • Divorce Poison

Certain Alienator Personality Types Lead To Parental Alienation

Certain Alienator Personality Types Lead To Parental Alienation

I lost my oldest daughter when she was 14.  For over ten years I have been haunted by the inability to understand why I lost her and how abusers perpetrate alienation.   She is now in her mid 20’s and, although I sometimes still blame myself I have always known that the real story is a mystery tied to my ex-husband and his overt, malicious campaign to promulgate revenge against me.  His success is reflected in her penchant for sending emails  reminding me how completely she has rejected me and how deeply she hates me.  At one point she even threatened to seek a restraining order if I continued to try to contact her.

I recently received an email with a long list of reasons justifying her shutting me out of her life.  I was astounded that almost all the accusations were complete fabrications totally detached from reality.  I was equally astounded by the passion with which she wrote.  And, I realized that she truly believed her fantasies.  But, then I realized her words were really her father’s.  She had totally lost herself to his pathological narcissism, his nonsensical need for revenge, and his overwhelming compulsion to hurt me. I also came to realize that Parental Alienation will be successful if perpetrated by a certain alienator personality type.

Now, ten years later I have lost my youngest daughter and I am experiencing the same process of denigration.  As I have tried to fight back I have learned a great deal about how spouses and ex-spouses perpetrate Parental Alienation but perhaps the most important but elusive piece of the puzzle has been beyond my grasp.  The missing piece is an explanation of exactly how the alienator personality successfully conditions  children to become tools of his abuse.  What are the mechanisms used to cause loving children to turn so completely to hate?

The three topics introduced below and linked to more comprehensive descriptions may be helpful in understanding the alienation mechanisms. Also, psychological disorders are consistently persistent in an alienator personality.


PAS resources

Narcissistic personality disorder

S Akhtar – The Disorders: Specialty Articles from the Encyclopedia …, 2001 –
a high regard for authority and strict inner morality, while the narcissist is often Kernberg, OF
(1975).” Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism.” Jason Aronson, New York.
Developmental aspects in the assessment of narcissistic and so-called borderline personalities.

[BOOK] Borderline personality disorder: A clinical guide

JG Gunderson – 2009 –
For most families, the primary treatments are parental coaching and assisted problem solving
The de- velopment and influence of the Borderline Personality Disorder Re- search Foundation,
the explicit family ad- vocacy groups, and the adoption of BPD as a brain disease by the

[HTML] MMPI-2 validity scales and suspected parental alienation syndrome

JC Siegel, JS Langford – American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 1998 –
(17) have found that parents with narcissistic personality disturbances were Wakefield H,
Underwager R: Personality characteristics of parents making false accusations of sexual ME:
Shared parenting agreements after marital separation: the roles of empathy and narcissism.

Parental alienation disorder and DSM-V

W Bernet – The American Journal of Family Therapy, 2008 – Taylor & Francis
Is antisocial personality disorder any more real than psychopathy? finally, there is an enormous
debate among child and adolescent psychiatrists as to the proper definition of childhood bipolar
disorder. Is autism caused by narcissistic mothers, immunizations, or something else

[HTML] The empowerment of children in the development of parental alienation syndrome

RA Gardner – American journal of forensic psychology, 2002 –
may be aided by the alienated parent if that parent is passive by personality or becomes of
narcissism was not justifiable with the utilization of the more stringent criteria for narcissism to
be But even if some of the victims are narcissistic, that does not justify the conclusion that

Patterns of parental alienation syndrome: A qualitative study of adults who were alienated from a parent as a child

AJL Baker 1 – The American Journal of Family Therapy, 2006 – Taylor & Francis
A second underlying motivation of the alienation fueled by the mothers’ narcissism appears to
be For the narcissist, if she is angry with someone, the children should be as well. People with
narcissistic personality disorders tend to be arrogant and, therefore, are likely to devalue

[BOOK] Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder

M Linehan – 1993 –
Page 1. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder Marsha M. Linehan
Page 5. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder Marsha M. Linehan,
Ph.D. University of Washington THE GUILFORD PRESS New York London This On.

Does DSM-IV have equivalents for the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) diagnosis?

RA Gardner – American Journal of Family Therapy, 2003 – Taylor & Francis
Many examiners, then, may consciously and deliberately choose to use the term parental
alienation in the courtroom, even though they infected, loved at a distance, or deceived by spouse
or lover, or having a disease) of at 301.81 NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

[BOOK] Adult children of parental alienation syndrome: Breaking the ties that bind

AJL Baker – 2010 –
in a focused way the subject’s everyday life world as it related to parental alienation and the or
di- vorce, how he or she was told about the separation, which parent moved out of schedule
through the age of 18 (this section was eliminated for individuals whose parents were not

Narcissism and the narcissistic personality disorder: a comparison of the theories of Kernberg and Kohut

GA Russell – British journal of medical psychology, 1985 – Wiley Online Library
Kernberg emphasizes the role of hatred, coldness and of chronic intense envy of those who seem
to possess things the narcissist does not have. (2) Dejinition of narcissistic libido Kohut’s view
on narcissism diverges widely from its definition as ‘the libidinal investment of

Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It only takes a few minutes of googling (a verified verb) to learn about the invalidation of “PAS” and “Parental Alienation Syndrome”.

There are some out there that still want to vehemently argue that there is such a thing.  Personally, I can’t disagree that there are behaviors which are meant to denigrate or negatively impact the child’s relationship with the other parent – certainly that part is true.

It is also true, in my opinion, that Richard Gardner, the creator of “PAS” was off his rocker himself.  This is the mental health “professional” who coined the term and forced far too many children (one is too many) to live with potentially abusive parents and denied contact with the parent who was accused of alienation.  This was his form of “therapeutic intervention”, and if you ask me, it should’ve been called “therapeutic abuse”.  While the American Psychiatric Association has discredited the theory and there is no medical or professional association that supports it … its basis and his interventions still have influence in the courtrooms of the world today.

What I find interesting is the corollary between behaviors of a parent who is alienating their child from their other parent, and behaviors of an abusive, personality disordered parent (likely narcissistic).

Behaviors commonly displayed by narcissistic parents, which are meant to alienate the other parent include:

  • Talking with the child/children about the marital relationship and reasons for divorce.
    • For e.g.,  saying that it is the ex’s fault that the children have to go back and forth between houses – if that ex-spouse just wanted to stay married, then the kids wouldn’t have to endure divorce like this
  • Limiting contact with the other parent while they are with them.
    • I have heard too many healthy non-NPD parents talk about the NPD parent limiting phone calls, screening phone calls, or monitoring them
  • Denying the child to have personal property, and not allowing them to move possessions between homes.  The items don’t belong to the child, they belong with the house in which they are staying at the time.  This typically includes any cell phone the child has with them, so the child cannot have open contact, as noted above
  • Limiting information provided to the other parent about the child, even if the child is sick or ill while with them.
    • This is also a behavior which a protective parent eventually adopts, especially if they are practicing “low contact” and/or have come to the realization that information is almost always used against them
  • Blaming the other parent for any problems that exist, like lack of financial resources or opportunities in life because the family is “divorced”
  • Acting in a way which pretends the other parent doesn’t exist. Not allowing the child to mention the other parent’s name or refusing to acknowledge the child has fun with the other parent
  • Attacking the other parent’s character or lifestyle, such as job, living arrangements, activities, clothing and friends
    • Narcissists often put down their spouse while married – it’s a means of lowering their spouses self esteem and weakening the spouse against their emotional abuse
  • Dismissing or being condescending of the other parent’s opinions or parenting style, telling the child to disregard safety rules that are at the other house because they are “stupid” or “ridiculous”
  • Putting the child in the middle by encouraging the child to spy on the other parent or take messages back and forth
    • Or sending the child support check by way of the child….
  • Telling the child that the other parent is keeping them from seeing the child



Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)


Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a serious condition which affects an estimated 1% of the population. Narcissism is characterized by an extreme self-interest and promotion with an accompanying lack of concern for the needs of others.

Narcissism is named after the mythological Greek character Narcissus, an extremely handsome young man who rejected the love of Echo and, as punishment, was condemned to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to obtain he object of his desire, he died there in sorrow.

NPD Characteristics & Traits

The following list is a collection of some of the more commonly observed behaviors and traits of those who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Note that these are not intended to be used for diagnosis. People who suffer from NPD are all unique and so each person will display a different subset of traits. Also, note that everyone displays “narcissistic” behaviors from time to time. Therefore, if a person exhibits one or some of these traits, that does not necessarily qualify them for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. See the DSM Criteria on this page for diagnostic criteria.

Click on the links on each trait for much more information about a particular trait or behavior and some ideas for coping with each.

Abusive Cycle – This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.

Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.

“Always” and “Never” Statements – “Always” and “Never” Statements are declarations containing the words “always” or “never”. They are commonly used but rarely true.

Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.

Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Bullying – Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Cheating – Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.

Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dissociation– A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.

Domestic Theft – Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.

Emotional Blackmail – A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

False Accusations – Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Favoritism – Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Frivolous Litigation – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.

Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.

Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Hoovers & Hoovering – A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

Lack of Object Constancy – An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Magical Thinking – Looking for supernatural connections between external events and one’s own thoughts, words and actions.

Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.

Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.

No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Parental Alienation Syndrome – When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Pathological Lying – Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Self-Aggrandizement – A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.

Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Stalking – Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Testing – Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing – Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person’s thoughts or feelings.

Threats – Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Triangulation – Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.

Tunnel Vision – The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.



The subjects for the study were 34 females who completed the MMPI-2 in the course of child custody evaluations. Thirty of the subjects were evaluated in the authors’ practice, while four were contributed by another psychologist who frequently serves as an expert witness for the family courts of Dallas, Texas. All of the subjects were involved in child custody litigation and were referred by their attorneys or by the court for psychological evaluation to assist the court in determining the best interest of the children.

Classification Into Groups

The MMPI-2 results of all the clients involved in child custody evaluations in the authors’ practice over the last three years were first removed from the files so that classifications would be made as “blind” as possible The records of the evaluations were then reviewed and subjects classified into a parental alienation syndrome (PAS) group and a non-parental alienation (non-PAS) group, according to criteria developed from Gardner’s (2) and Turkat’s (4) descriptions of alienating tactics commonly used by parents.

The psychologist who contributed four additional PAS subjects’ records picked them out of her case files using the same criteria. She did not know the study’s hypothesis.

The PAS criteria were as follows:

  1. Personally involved in, or involving others in, malicious acts against the other parent

  2. Engages in excessive litigation for the purpose of limiting the other parent’s access to their children

  3. Attempts to obstruct regular visitation with the other parent

  4. Obstructs the other parent’s participation in the children’s school life and extracurricular activities by lack of notification or untimely notification

  5. Lying to the children

  6. Lying to others (including, but not limited to, child welfare and child abuse workers, school personnel, medical and psychological professionals)

  7. Violations of law (court orders, enforceable agreed orders regarding access, etc.)

  8. False allegations of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse (falsehood determined by collateral information from child protective service agencies, physicians, psychologists, or other reputable sources)

Sixteen subjects met the criteria for classification as PAS parents (age range: 30 years old to 45 years old, mean = 38.1 years), while 18 subjects did not and were placed in the non-PAS subject pool (age range: 27 years old to 44 years old, mean = 36.9 years).

Divorce Poison

Personality Dysfunction May Well Be At The Root Of Alienation

More than 90% of people in Western cultures marry or form “permanent” relationships by age 50.  And nearly 50% will divorce or split.  Second marriages have an even greater chance of failure.

All divorces are painful and traumatic and children always suffer as a result of their parents’ split.  But, while the parents may develop great antipathy toward each other most attempt to shield their children as much as possible from the emotional and psychological damage inherent in the family’s dissolution.  In some cases, however, when one parent is afflicted with a personality disorder he or she can inflict severe damage on the children which can result in Parental Alienation.

Pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder is probably the most significant malevolent condition prevalent in one parent’s attempt to alienate children from the other. But different disorders have associated characteristics commonly identified with Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Disorder.


The Power of Surrender

The Power of Surrender.

Beginning the Journey of Healing

Beginning the Journey of Healing.

Coping With the Reality of Estrangement

Coping With the Reality of Estrangement.