According to Dr. C.A. Childress, attachment-based parental alienation is created when a person with narcissistic tendencies gets their child to reject the other parent as a way to modulate the narcissistic parent’s anxiety. According to Childress, this anxiety is threefold:
- Narcissistic anxiety: Tremendous anxiety over the threatened collapse of the narcissistic defense against the experience of deep personal inadequacy.
- Borderline anxiety: Intense anxiety surrounding overwhelming fear of abandonment.
- Trauma anxiety: Reactivated anxiety (emotional flashback) of childhood attachment trauma.