Illusory truth In high conflict divorces, sometimes, one parent uses the illusory truth effect leading the child to believe they do not want to see or talk to one of their parents or convince the child their parent does not care about them. In actuality, the rejected parent is eager to cultivate the parent-child relationship. Instead, the child is embroiled in a bitter battle called the illusory truth effect by the alienating parent. The illusory truth effect is a concept evolving from a 1977 study.
This is important in high conflict divorces because repetition supersedes prior knowledge.
The child may recall a close and loving relationship with their parent yet; the illusory truth effect means the child perceives the repeated negative statements as the truth. Negative comments, albeit false, are replacing what the child knows to be true by the erroneous reports they are hearing. In essence, constant exposure to the harmful facts becomes the child’s new reality.
Research in 2008 found when the child is experiencing high stress due to abuse, physiological changes may affect memory storage and the illusory truth effect may be more intense. A child in the throes of a high conflict divorce may experience distress making the child more vulnerable to the ‘facts’ directed at them, therefore exacerbating an already volatile situation. Utilizing the illusory truth effect is emotionally destructive
and traumatizing to the child.
Quotes from children on shared parenting
Ages 4-7: “This is all very confusing. I am soooo confused.”
Ages 8-12: “Dad couldn’t be as bad as mom says he is.”