Enmeshment is a concept introduced by Salvador Minuchin to describe families where personal boundaries are diffuse, sub-systems undifferentiated, and over-concern for others leads to a loss of autonomous development. Enmeshed in parental needs, trapped in a discrepant role function, a child may lose his or her capacity for self-direction; his/her own distinctiveness, under the weight of psychic incest; and, if family pressures increase, may end up becoming the identified patient or family scapegoat. Enmeshment was also used by John Bradshaw to describe a state of cross-generational bonding within a family, whereby a child (normally of the opposite sex) becomes a surrogate spouse for their mother or father.
A gatekeeper parent is a term sometimes utilized in the legal arena to refer to a parent who appoints themself the power to decide what relationship is acceptable between the other parent and the child(ren). The term is broad and may refer to power dynamics within a marriage or may describe the behaviors of divorced or never married parents.
Most “gatekeeping” situations are studied with consenting married couples who are first-time parents. Parenting situation studies using divorced couples and out-of-wedlock parenting relationships that show very similar or identical behavioral characteristics as married couples with children are usually studied as Parental Interference, Parental Alienation, Maternal Alienation, and Abuse by Proxy.
A gatekeeper parent exhibits the following behaviors:
- Criticizes the way other parent, spouse, or ex-spouse parents
- Creates unbending or unrealistic standards in order for the other parent to spend time with the children
- Demeans or undermines the other parent’s efforts at being an authority figure in the child(ren’s) lives
- Controls all the organizing, delegating, planning, and scheduling in the home
- Becomes reluctant to let go of some of the responsibility for caring for the family
- Needs a great deal of validation of their identity as a parent, both from the other parent, spouse, or ex-spouse and from outside the marriage or parenting relationship
- Believes in the traditional roles assigned to husbands and wives
- Views the other parent, spouse, or ex-spouse as a helper and not an equal when it comes to household chores and child-care responsibilities
- Asks the other parent, spouse, or ex-spouse for help and then gives explicit directions on how to accomplish a task
Inside a marriage, the characteristics and symptoms of a gatekeeper may already be apparent, with one parent being relegated to second tier status and disenfranchised with regard to their parenting skills or their ability to practice and nurture their own set of skills. This lends itself to the dominant parent taking complete control of the household, and it causes severe resentment and sense of helplessness in the other parent’s relationship with the children. In a post-divorce situation, the gatekeeping parent may limit contact between the other parent and the child(ren), abuse the child verbally and psychologically, or utilize derogatory remarks regarding the other parent, including threats in order to maintain control.
It is yet to be determined or even studied as to whether or not parental gatekeeping is a different syndrome from parental interference and parental alienation or if the latter two are simply a more severe form of gatekeeping exacerbated by a high-conflict breakdown of the relationship between the two parents. It is important to note that parental gatekeeping, along with parental interference and parental alienation are not recognized by the American Psychological Association as diagnosable “syndromes”. Many mental health professionals have agreed that such terms are merely an attempt to explain a child’s resistance to visitation with the paternal parent. High-conflict circumstances already visible in the marriage can lead to accusations of incompetence, neglect, or abuse of the children – usually by the maternal parent against the father – once the relationship is being adjudicated in a divorce preceding. No current studies have been published to link the three syndromes and the American Psychological Association has not ruled or identified any of the three as recognized syndromes in any of its publications. Independent individual studies of all three are still in progress with findings to be published later.
Triangulation is a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. The concept originated in the study of dysfunctional family systems, but can describe behaviors in other systems as well, including work.
Triangulation can also be a form of “splitting” in which one person plays the third family member against one that he or she is upset about. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting will also engage in character assassination, only with both parties.
The loss of attachment to the rejected parent is seen as rare though it could happen as the result of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or parental substance abuse. However in the latter cases, the other symptoms would not be present, for example, delusional beliefs about the rejected parent being abusive or inadequate.
The success of restoring the child’s attachment to their parent hinges on first protecting the child from harmful parenting. A study suggests that the child does not experience this protection as being traumatic.
According to a report, when these symptoms present, structured intervention is more effective than traditional counseling. Structured intervention involves:
- developing critical thinking to overcome rejection and enmeshment dynamics
- resetting the child’s place in the family hierarchy
- addressing the family system
- temporarily protecting the child from the bad parenting practices of the enmeshed parent.
Traditional counseling, based on the therapeutic alliance, is susceptible to:
- delays from a lack of milestones and schedules
- sabotage by a parent with an interest in making it fail
- exclusive focus on a child’s feelings and complaints to the exclusion of addressing the family system
- the ineffectiveness of a parent apologizing for fabricated, exaggerated, or distorted complaints.
If this theoretical formulation is correct, that if a child has this symptom set, it comes from harmful parenting practices, and if no other theoretical formulations for the symptom set are proposed, then for a child displaying these symptoms, it suggests there is a child protection issue and that a relevant DSM-5 diagnostic code is V995.51, Child Psychological Abuse, invoking a duty to protect.
In the late 1950s, psychologist Robert Jay Lifton studied former prisoners ofKorean War and Chinese war camps. He determined that they’d undergone a multistep process that began with attacks on the prisoner’s sense of self and ended with what appeared to be a change in beliefs. Lifton ultimately defined a set of steps involved in the brainwashing cases he studied:
- Assault on identity
- Breaking point
- Compulsion to confess
- Channeling of guilt
- Releasing of guilt
- Progress and harmony
- Final confession and rebirth
Each of these stages takes place in an environment of isolation, meaning all “normal” social reference points are unavailable, and mind-clouding techniques like sleep deprivation and malnutrition are typically part of the process. There is often the presence or constant threat of physical harm, which adds to the target’s difficulty in thinking critically and independently.
Dr. David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC, covering topics in mental health, wellness, and psychotherapy.
My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I’m a clinical psychologist and your host.
On today’s show we’ll be talking about parental alienation with my guest, Dr. Amy J.L. Baker. Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D. is the Director of Research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection in New York City and she is author of the 2007 book, “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind”.
Dr. Baker earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the Teacher’s College, Columbia University in 1989. She is also the author or co-author of over 50 peer-reviewed scholarly publications in topics such as parental alienation, child welfare, parent-child attachment and parent involvement in their children’s education. She has appeared on TV, radio and in the New York Times. She has presented at numerous conferences.
Now, here is the interview…
Dr. Amy Baker, welcome to the Wise Counsel Podcast.
Dr. Amy J.L. Baker: Thanks for having me on the show, David.
David: Well, I’m very glad to have you here and we’re going to be discussing your book, the title of which is “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome”. So I guess the logical place to start is what’s meant by the term “Parental Alienation Syndrome”?
Amy: That’s a good place to start because there is some confusion, some people use the term “parental alienation”, some use the term “Parental Alienation Syndrome”. The working definition that I use is that parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to try to effectuate a child’s rejection of the other parent who I refer to as the “targeted parent”.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the resulting behavior and attitudes within the child who come to believe that the targeted parent is someone unworthy of having a relationship with.
Now, it’s important to know that not all cases of the child rejecting a parent qualify as Parental Alienation Syndrome.
to read or download the full interview click here:- http://www.pvmhmr.org/82-parenting/article/14784-wise-counsel-interview-transcript-an-interview-with-amy-j-l-baker-phd-on-parental-alienation
In psychology, the study of brainwashing, often referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of ‘social influence.’ Is brainwashing a system that produces similar results across cultures and personality types?
Source: How Brainwashing Works
Child abduction happens “when a parent or a relative or someone acting on their behalf removes, retains, or conceals a child, under the age of 16, in breach of the other parent’s custody rights whether joint or sole”. In the UK, it is a criminal offence for anyone ‘connected with a child’ under 16 to take or send that child out of the UK without ‘appropriate consent’ of any other person who has ‘parental responsibility’ for the child.
This is set out in the Child Abduction Act 1984 as follows:-
- The people ‘connected with a child’ are the child’s parents, guardians and people with a residence order or who have parental responsibility.
- ‘Appropriate consent’ is the consent of the mother, the father (if he has parental responsibility), the guardian or anyone with a residence order or parental responsibility, or the leave (permission) of the court.
- ‘Parental responsibility’ is defined as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has”.
To campaign more effectively against the growing incidence of parental child abduction across frontiers, it is vital to put a human face on both victims and perpetrators.
A preview of our next documentary on parental alienation, examining a case of abduction from the viewpoint of both estranged parents and the child, now an adult. Due for release in 2015
to see more click here:- http://www.actionagainstabduction.org/films/
The quickest version of that recruitment is Parental Child Abduction. Abduction requires subsequent Alienation of the children to keep them on-side. Serious Parental Child Alienation achieves exactly the same child-recruit outcome as Abduction, but the Alienation may be a longer process – though often it can get going quite quickly.
go to the website to read more here:- https://thealienationexperience.org.uk/2016/04/26/undue-influence-new-thoughts-on-high-conflict-in-families/