Cartwright (1993) indicates that “time is on the side of the alienator”. The alienator practices various ploys to prevent good contact between the child and the absent parent. Such delaying tactics are unscrupulous and unfair, but they are effective. In time and after numerous efforts to gain good contact through the courts, the alienated parent sometimes gives up. The odds are stacked against him/her ever having real positive contact with her child and this gives the alienator the pathological chance to continue the alienation process. One may well ask: “Is this real justice?” It is not only ‘folie a deux’ or the folie a trois that has won the day but ‘folie carré’, to coin a new phrase with the third person in this case being the encased therapist and the fourth party being the court of law. Eventually all favourable recollections the child has had about the relationship with the absent parent disappear. This is again a reflection of how the alienator feels about the former partner as they both enact their ‘folie a deux’ pathological delusions.
One is often asked what effect this has on the child now and in later life. This has been discussed more fully by Lowenstein (2006a). To summarise, the child grows up relentlessly reenacting what it has experienced in its own life. Not only does the hostility perpetuate itself towards the targeted parent but it perpetuates itself in the life of the child as he/she becomes an adult. The child as an adult has difficulties very often in relationships with a partner and reenacts what has been learned by perpetuating the cycle of the paranoid delusions and hostility resulting in PAS.
Sometimes a child as an adult or mature adolescent will consider what has occurred and how he/she has been used by the alienator. This sometimes results in a change of thinking, due to therapy or in conversation with intimate friends. Then follows an active seeking for the lost parent. Unfortunately there is no research as to the frequency of this happening. The conjecture is that it is relatively rare. As Cartwright (1993) states:
“The child’s good memories of the alienated parent are systematically destroyed and the child misses out on the day to day interaction, learning, support and love, which, in an intact family, usually flows between the child and both parents as well as grandparents and other relatives on both sides.”
In many cases what occurs is that the now lost parent may no longer be available and the grandparents have undoubtedly died. Additionally the more mature child does sometimes turn against the alienator in the realization of what has been done.
Turkat (1995) calls this disorder “malicious parent syndrome” as the parent is usually but not always the mother, who engages with the ‘folie a deux’ child a relentless and multi-faceted campaign of aggression and deception against the ex-spouse. Sometimes other people are involved in this ‘folie a deux’ scenario and it may well be called ‘folie a plus de trois’. This includes family members and friends and even neighbours who will back the alienator. Each will support the alienator, without a qualm. They fall into the trap of attacking the absent parent and thereby prevent that parent playing any role in a child’s life. Sometimes they will go so far, without first hand evidence, to claim that the absent parent is a sex or physical abuser. Both mothers and fathers have been responsible for such totally false allegations being made. Children will be encouraged or even pressurized to lie about sex abuse or physical contact of some kind in order for the innocent parent to be eliminated totally from having contact with the child. Hence the alienators delusions are imposed not only on an innocent child, but many others, in a form of ‘folie a pluisieurs’ or madness or delusion of many.
Folie à deux
- Folie à deux (/fɒˈli ə ˈduː/; French pronunciation: [fɔli a dø]; French for “madness of two”), or shared psychosis, is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusionalbelief and sometimes hallucinations are transmitted from one individual to another. The same syndrome shared by more than two people may be called folie à trois, folie à quatre, folie en famille, or even folie à plusieurs (“madness of many”).
Recent psychiatric classifications refer to the syndrome as shared psychotic disorder (DSM-IV – 297.3) and induced delusional disorder (F24) in the ICD-10, although the research literature largely uses the original name. This disorder is not in the current DSM (DSM-5).
- Folie imposée is where a dominant person (known as the ‘primary’, ‘inducer’ or ‘principal’) initially forms a delusional belief during a psychotic episode and imposes it on another person or persons (known as the ‘secondary’, ‘acceptor’ or ‘associate’) with the assumption that the secondary person might not have become deluded if left to his or her own devices. If the parties are admitted to hospital separately, then the delusions in the person with the induced beliefs usually resolve without the need of medication.
- Folie simultanée describes either the situation where two people considered to suffer independently from psychosis influence the content of each other’s delusions so they become identical or strikingly similar, or one in which two people “morbidly predisposed” to delusional psychosis mutually trigger symptoms in each other.