Severe Parental Alienation: Severe cases of alienation are differentiated from mild and moderate cases by the extent of the child’s rejection and degree of negativity in the attitudes and behavior toward the targeted parent. Severely alienated children have little if anything positive to say about the targeted parent and often rewrite the history of their relationship with the targeted parent. They seem content to avoid all contact with the targeted parent, may reject an entire branch of their extended family, and often threaten to defy court-ordered parenting plans that schedule them to be under the care of the targeted parent
Diagnosis of Parental Alienation
Let’s start with why therapists and evaluators often miss alienation.
Targeted parents may present as anxious, depressed, and angry. At the same time, beneath these desperate situational reactions generally lies psychological health.
Alienating parents, by contrast, generally often calm, cool, and charming and therefore look more attractive. They lie convincingly. Alienator and child appear credible by telling similar stories.
Yet beneath the alienator’s smooth exterior lie one or more Cluster-B character disorders: (1) borderline emotional hyperreactivity, splitting, etc. (2) narcissistic ignoring of the child’s needs in favor of using the child as their foot soldier against the targeted parent (3) antisocial lying and harming others without guilt. Parents without character disorders rarely, if ever, alienate.
What hypotheses need to be generated and evaluated in potential alienation cases?
Explore the following two possible causes of the child’s negative view of one parent. Note that more than one of these factors may be occurring.
- Danger from verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse
- Brain-washing of the child by an alienating parent