Have you ever spoken to someone with delusions? Would you know a delusion if you encountered one? What about a person experiencing a hallucination? If you found yourself shaking your head “no” to these questions, that’s okay because…
High conflict cases
There are 5-10% high conflict cases where no cooperative or consensus approach works whatsoever. Those parents may never have learned through their life experiences to respect or listen to another person’s point of view, to recognise another person’s good intentions, or to negotiate problems in a fair manner. So some people tend to fight the whole way through their lives, people with personality disorders, with ongoing violence, people who are unwilling to do something about alcohol and drug abuse etc.
In these cases, the involved professionals discuss and agree at some point that this family needs a clear cut court decision. At this stage, it may be in children’s best interests to be removed from their parents’ home and placed in alternative care.
3) Cases in which the impacts of the alienation are so extreme.
Alienating parents tend to have difficulty separating their own feelings from those of the child (Johnston, Walters, & Olesen, 2005 referring to their study of alignment). This blurring of boundaries is typically an expression of the pathological enmeshment found within parental alienation cases. That is, the alienating parent will be angry with the other parent, and will project this anger onto the child, truly not realizing they are doing so. This projected anger will be absorbed by the child who eventually will become alienated because of it. Generally, when a parent is focused on his or her anger at the other parent, children are more likely to experience increased hostility, inconsistent discipline, or withdrawal by the parent (Grych, 2005). However, when this anger and hostility exists within the context of alienation, the damage is much greater to the child. Under this scenario, the child tends to merge with the alienating parent as a survival mechanism and the evaluator must be aware of this dynamic and be able to identify it. This again, goes back to the concept of pathological enmeshment which is axiomatic to the alienating parent-alienated child relationship. One can simply not have alienation without it.
“Parental alienation (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting) is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. These behaviors most often accompany high conflict marriages, separation or divorce…These behaviors whether verbal or non-verbal, cause a child to be mentally manipulated or bullied into believing a loving parent is the cause of all their problems, and/or the enemy, to be feared, hated, disrespected and/or avoided.”
The mental state of parents who seriously abuse children through alienation
The experiment which follows is based on 15 years of study of alienating parents and having measured their personality traits in three areas: psychoticism, neuroticism, and empathy. The test used for this purpose was the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire which already has norms for the average population based on age and sex.
Although the sample is small consisting of 15 women and 10 men who have been found to seriously alienate their children against the other party, it is at present the only study carried out to measure objectively the personality traits of such individuals compared with the norms on psychoticism, neuroticism and empathy.
The tables which follow provides the norms and standard deviations of the non alienating normal group and compares this with the alienators on the three dimensions measured.
Psychoticism – age norms, means and standard deviations for different age groups for the general population, and parental alienating group (in brackets)
The results indicate that alienators appear to have a higher score on psychoticism indicating signs of mental illness of disturbance related to these symptoms.
Neuroticism – age norms, means and standard deviations for different age groups for the general population, and parental alienation group (in brackets)
Empathy – age norms, means and standard deviations for different age groups for the general population, and parental alienation group (in brackets)
The results indicate that:
1. Alienators appear to have a higher score on psychoticism and neuroticism indicating signs of mental illness or emotional disturbance related to these symptoms.
2. Alienators also appear to have a lower score in the area of empathy than the norm of men and women assessed in the general population in the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire Manual.
Shared psychotic disorders can also happen in groups of people who are closely involved with a person who has a psychotic disorder (called folie à plusiers, or “the madness of many”). For instance, this could happen in a cult if the leader is psychotic and his or her followers take on their delusions.
Experts don’t know why it happens. But they believe that stress and social isolation play a role in its development.