Children suffering from the Effects of Parental Alienation
It must be stated from the beginning that not all the symptoms about to be mentioned occur in all children who are involved in the parental alienation syndrome scenario. There will also be some difference between the very young child and the older child who have more experience of the PAS process. Not all the symptoms mentioned occur in all children. However some symptoms undoubtedly will occur and effect the child unless some form of treatment is carried out which eliminates the impact of the alienating process:
- Anger is a common reaction of many children to the process of alienation. The anger however will be expressed towards the target parent as one sides with one of the parents in the relationship against the other. The fact the children are forced into this kind of situation causes considerable distress and frustration and the response often is to show aggressive behaviour towards the targeted parent in order to accommodate the programmer.
- Loss or a lack of impulse control in conduct. Children who suffer from PAS are not merely suffering from aggression but also often turn to delinquent behaviour. There is considerable evidence that fathers and their presence and influence can do much to prevent and alleviate the possibility of delinquency most especially in boys.
- Loss of self confidence and self esteem. Losing one of the parents through the programming procedure can produce a lack of self confidence and self esteem. In the case of boys identification with a male figure has been curtailed, especially if the alienated parent is the father.
- Clinging and separation anxiety. Children especially very young children who have been programmed to hate or disdain one of the parents will tend to cling to that parent who has carried out the programming. There is considerable anxiety induced by the programming parent against the target parent including threats that such a parent would carry out a great number of different negative actions against the child as well as the programming parent.
- Developing fears and phobias. Many children fear being abandoned or rejected now that they have been induced to feel that one of the partners in a relationship usually the father is less than desirable. Sometimes this results in school phobia that is fear of attending school mainly due to fear of leaving the parent who claims to be the sole beneficial partner in the formal relationship. Some children suffer from hyperchondriacal disorders and tend to develop psychological symptoms and physical illnesses. Such children also fear what will happen in the future and most especially there is a fear that the programming parent or only parent who is allegedly the “good parent” may die and leave the child bereft of any support.
- Depression and suicidal ideation. Some children who are so unhappy at the tragic break up of the relationship are further faced with animosity between the programming parent and the targeted parent. This leads to ambivalence and uncertainty and sometimes suicidal attempts occur due to the unhappiness which the child feels brought about by the two main adults in his or her life.
- Sleep disorders is another symptom which follows the parental alienation situation. Children frequently dream and often find it difficult to sleep due to their worries about the danger of the alienated parent and the guilt they may feel as a result of participating in the process of alienation.
- Eating disorders. A variety of eating disorders have been noted in children who are surrounded by parental alienation. This includes anorexia nervosa, obesity and bulimia.
- Educational problems. Children who are surrounded by the pressure of having to reject one parent having been less brain washed frequently suffer from school dysfunctions. They may become disruptive as well as aggressive within that system.
- Enuresis and Encopresis. A number of very young children due to the pressure and frustrations around them suffer from bed wetting and soiling. This is a response to the psychological disturbance of losing one parent and finding one parent inimical to the rejected parent.
- Drug abuse and self destructive behaviour frequently are present in children who have suffered from parental alienation. This tendency is due to a need to escape one’s feelings of the abuse they have suffered through the experience and the desire to escape from it. In the extreme such self destructive behaviour can lead to suicidal tendencies.
- Obsessive compulsive behaviour. This psychological reaction is frequently present in PAS children. Such children will seek to find security in their environment by adopting a variety of obsessive compulsive behaviour patterns.
- Anxiety and panic attacks are also frequently present in children who have been involved in PAS processes. This may be reflected through psycho-somatic disorders such as nightmares.
- Damaged sexual identity problems. As a result of the PAS syndrome children often develop identity problems especially as they may have failed to identify with one member of the originally secure relationship.
- Poor peer relationships may follow the PAS situation due to the fact that such children often are either very withdrawn in their behaviour or are aggressive.
- Excessive feelings of guilt. This may be due to the knowledge deep down that the ostracised parent who has been vilified has done nothing wrong to deserve the kind of treatment received by the child or children. When this view occurs the child especially when older begins to suffer from guilt feelings.
Children who are exposed to PAS suffer in a variety of general as well as specific ways from this experience. It will often have both temporary and lasting effects on their lives. This is obviously not the intention of the alienator but it is the result of such alienation procedures and programming which causes the child to show a negative attitude and behaviour towards one of the parents. To deal with this problem a variety of therapeutic techniques are required and these will be covered in another article.