Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Custody Rights, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Childrens Act 1989

Parental Alienation as a Form of Emotional Child Abuse: Current State of Knowledge and Future Directions for Research

This article examines the current state of research on parental alienation, which
reveals that alienation is far more common and debilitating for children and parents than was previously believed. In extreme cases, one can make the argument that parental alienation is a serious form of emotional child abuse. Careful scrutiny of key elements of parental alienation in the research literature consistently identifies two core elements of child abuse: parental alienation as a significant form of harm to children that is attributable to human action. As a form of individual child abuse, parental alienation calls for a child protection response. As a form of collective abuse, parental alienation warrants fundamental reform of the family law system in the
direction of shared parenting as the foundation of family law. There is an emerging scientific consensus on prevalence, effects, and professional recognition of parental alienation as a form of child abuse. In response, the authors discuss the need for research on effectiveness of parental alienation interventions, particularly in more extreme cases. This paper argues for more quantitative and qualitative research focused on four pillars of intervention at micro and macro levels, with specific recommendations for further study of child protection responses, reunification programs, and other therapeutic approaches. Continue reading “Parental Alienation as a Form of Emotional Child Abuse: Current State of Knowledge and Future Directions for Research”

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Custody Rights, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Childrens Act 1989

Parental Alienation (Syndrome)-A serious form of psychological child abuse

Induced parental alienation is a specific form of psychological child abuse, which is listed in DSM-5, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), under diagnostic code V 995.51 “child psychological
abuse”. Untreated induced parental alienation can lead to long-term traumatic psychological and physical effects in the children concerned. This fact is still not given sufficient attention in family court cases. The article gives a condensed overview of parental alienation, summarising its definition, the symptoms and the various levels of severity. It also describes some major alienation techniques and possible psychosomatic and psychiatric effects of induced parental alienation. Finally,
attention is drawn to programmes of prevention and intervention now used and evaluated in some countries. The article concludes with two real-life examples from psychiatric practice, and a comprehensive list of international references. Continue reading “Parental Alienation (Syndrome)-A serious form of psychological child abuse”

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Childrens Act 1989

An understudied form of child abuse and ‘intimate terrorism’: Parental alienation

Researchers are urging psychological, legal and child custodial disciplines to recognize parental alienation as family violence

According to Colorado State University social psychologist Jennifer Harman, about 22 million American parents have been the victims of behaviors that lead to something called parental alienation. Having researched the phenomenon for several years, Harman is urging psychological, legal and child custodial disciplines to recognize parental alienation as a form of both child abuse and intimate partner violence. Harman has authored a review article in Psychological Bulletin defining the behaviors associated with parental alienation and advocating for more research into its prevalence and outcomes. Continue reading “An understudied form of child abuse and ‘intimate terrorism’: Parental alienation”

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Parental Alienation PA


These guidelines are written to provide front-line child protection workers with the
information and tools to understand what psychological maltreatment (PM) is, to detect it in all its forms, to understand how it relates to other types of maltreatment, and to determine the nature and degree of its existence. They can also provide guidance to child welfare agencies and family or criminal courts for cases where PM may be an issue.

  1. Nature and Significance of Psychological Maltreatment
    Humans are psychosocial beings. Beyond basic survival needs for food, water, shelter,
    temperature control, and physical health, human needs are primarily psychological in
    nature: to be safe from danger; to be loved and cared for; to love and care for others; to be respected as a unique and valued individual; and to have a say in one’s life

[1, 2, 3].These needs are fulfilled for the most part through social experiences. The degree and manner in which these needs are met determines, to a large extent, a person’s evolving capacities, identity, and behavior. These psychological needs are so vital to the health andwell-being of the individual that having them met should be considered a basic right

[4],and in fact, they have been identified as foundational for human rights [5, 6].
Psychological maltreatment (PM) occurs when the child’s attempts to have these

Posted in Alienation, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Parental Alienation PA


Objective A new condition, “child affected by parental relationship distress” (CAPRD), was introduced in the DSM-5. A relational problem, CAPRD is defined in the chapter of the DSM-5 under “Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention.” The purpose of this article is to explain the usefulness of this new terminology. Method A brief review of the literature establishing that children are affected by parental relationship distress is presented. To elaborate on the clinical presentations of CAPRD, four common scenarios are described in more detail: children may react to parental intimate partner distress; to parental intimate partner violence; to acrimonious divorce; and to unfair disparagement of one parent by another. Reactions of the child may include the onset or exacerbation of psychological symptoms, somatic complaints, an internal loyalty conflict, and, in the extreme, parental alienation, leading to loss of a parent–child relationship. Results Since the definition of CAPRD in the DSM-5 consists of only one sentence, the authors propose an expanded explanation, clarifying that children may develop behavioral, cognitive, affective, and physical symptoms when they experience varying degrees of parental relationship distress, that is, intimate partner distress and intimate partner violence, which are defined with more specificity and reliability in the DSM-5. Conclusion CAPRD, like other relational problems, provides a way to define key relationship patterns that appear to lead to or exacerbate adverse mental health outcomes. It deserves the attention of clinicians who work with youth, as well as researchers assessing environmental inputs to common mental health problems. Continue reading “CAPRD”

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Complex Trauma, EMOTIONAL ABUSE, Parental Alienation PA

Intimate Partner Violence | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), also referred to as domestic violence, occurs when an individual purposely causes harm or threatens the risk of harm to any past or current partner or spouse. While abuse often occurs as a pattern of controlling and coercive behavior, an initial episode of abuse may also be cause for concern. Tactics used in IPV can be physical, sexual, financial, verbal, or emotional in nature against the partner. Individuals may also experience stalking, terrorizing, blame, hurt, humiliation, manipulation, and intentional isolation from social supports and family. IPV can vary in frequency and severity. Children are often the hidden or silent victims of IPV, and some are directly injured, while others are frightened witnesses. Children with IPV exposure are more likely to have also experienced emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and community violence.

As the scope of the problem has become understood, IPV is now identified as a significant legal and public health issue, not only a private family problem. Abuse can affect families and communities across generations, and can occur across the lifespan, from dating teens to elderly couples. There are laws in every state that address IPV. Abuse occurs in all types of relationships and among people with varying backgrounds of age, race, religion, financial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and education. Although the majority of victims of IPV are women, it is important to acknowledge that men can be victims too. IPV disproportionately affects members of the LGBTQ community, who experience barriers to assistance from community resources such as shelters or police.

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Parental Alienation PA

Specific Problems of Children suffering from the Effects of PAS

Specific Problems of Children suffering from the Effects of PAS

Now follows a series of symptoms found in children, when they are presented over a period of time, with brain washing or programming against another parent. The effects are both short and long term. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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. Continue reading “Specific Problems of Children suffering from the Effects of PAS”

Posted in Alienation, CAFCASS, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Childrens Act 1989

Child Protection Conference

Sometimes decisions are made about children that relate to incidents/ situations or allegations that happened previously – if the children are still being impacted or at risk in some way because of that situation. However, as parents you should always be given an opportunity to put forward your views, both when you have visits from the social worker or when you attend formal meetings such as a core group or a child protection conference. Parents should always be invited and supported to attend conferences (unless that would put someone at risk of harm) and the main meeting that takes place without inviting parents is the strategy meeting which plans any child protection investigation. I don’t know if that is the meeting you refer to? You can ask the new social worker to clarify this for you.

When there is a child protection plan there must always be a follow up review conference to decide if the plan should stay in place or not.

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child abuse, Child Maltreatment, Children's Rights, Parental Alienation PA

Tell Your Children the Truth By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Most victims attempt to present to their children a “balanced” picture of the relationship and of the abusive spouse. In a vain attempt to avoid the notorious (and controversial) Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), they do not besmirch the abusive parent and, on the contrary, encourage the semblance of a normal, functional, liaison. This is the wrong approach. Not only is it counterproductive – it sometimes proves outright dangerous.

Children have a right to know the overall state of affairs between their parents. They have a right not to be cheated and deluded into thinking that “everything is basically OK” – or that the separation is reversible. Both parents are under a moral obligation to tell their offspring the truth: the relationship is over for good.

Younger kids tend to believe that they are somehow responsible or guilty for the breakdown of the marriage. They must be disabused of this notion. Both parents would do best to explain to them, in straightforward terms, what led to the dissolution of the bond. If spousal abuse is wholly or partly to blame – it should be brought out to the open and discussed honestly.

In such conversations it is best not to allocate blame. But this does not mean that wrong behaviors should be condoned or whitewashed. The victimized parent should tell the child that abusive conduct is wrong and must be avoided. The child should be taught how to identify the warning signs of impending abuse – sexual, verbal, psychological, and physical.

Moreover, a responsible parent should teach the child how to resist inappropriate and hurtful actions. The child should be brought up to insist on being respected by the other parent, on having him or her observe the child’s boundaries and accept the child’s needs and emotions, choices, and preferences.

The child should learn to say “no” and to walk away from potentially compromising situations with the abusive parent. The child should be brought up not to feel guilty for protecting himself or herself and for demanding his or her rights.

Remember this: An abusive parent IS DANGEROUS TO THE CHILD. Continue reading “Tell Your Children the Truth By: Dr. Sam Vaknin”

Posted in Alienated children, Alienation, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Children's Rights, Enmeshment, Parental Alienation PA

Signs of Covert Incest

1. Taking a Child on “Dates”

Adams told The Mighty he’s had patients describe going on “dates” with their parent to see age-inappropriate movies or go to romantic dinners. Though it’s completely natural for a child to see a movie or go to dinner with a parent from time to time, these scenarios can cross into covert incest if, for example, a mother tells her son multiple times during dinner that she has the most handsome date there, or she insists on watching a romantic movie with adult content while holding her son’s hand the entire time.

2. Calling the Child Inappropriate Names

In covert incest, a parent might call their child inappropriate names typically only used when referring to an adult romantic partner. After a difficult divorce, a covertly incestuous father might tell his daughter something like, “Your mother left me, but you’ll always be loyal to me my sweet girlfriend, the love of my life.” Adams said other common inappropriate names may include, “boyfriend,” “husband,” “wife,” “sweet lover,” etc.

3. Engaging in Sexual Talk With a Child

A common feature in a lot of covert incest dynamics is the presence of age-inappropriate sexualized talk. For example, a covertly incestuous mother might talk to her child in great detail about her frustrating sex life with the child’s father. The child often feels unable to leave or stop the conversation due to the parent-child unequal power dynamic.

4. Commenting on a Child’s Physical Appearance or Developing Body

A covertly incestuous father might comment on his daughter’s developing body, making note of change in breast size or hips, for example. Though he doesn’t touch his daughter in a sexual way, making comments about how she has the “best body” of her friends, or that he would date her if he was her age can make the daughter feel uncomfortable and deeply insecure about her body.

What “Causes” Covert Incest?

If you read the above section wondering why a parent would engage in the behavior listed above, you’re not alone. Like many types of childhood emotional abuse, covert incest is complicated. Both Rutherford and Adams point to three primary “explanations” for why a parent might resort to covert incest to get their emotional needs met.

1. Disruption in the Marital Bond

Adams told The Mighty that one of the most common precursors to a parent’s covertly incestuous behavior is a breakdown in the marital bond — usually due to divorce or separation. He explained that when the marital bond is weak, a lonely parent might inappropriately exploit their child (who is often an endless source of adoration for the parent) for the emotional comfort they are no longer getting from their spouse.

2. Personality Issues

Personality issues like being highly emotionally dependent or “narcissistic” can contribute to covertly incestuous behavior, according to Adams.

When a parent is highly insecure, they may use the attention of their child to try to regulate their own inner emptiness or loneliness. “Narcissistic” parents may feel entitled to take what they need emotionally from their child, and may not view their actions as damaging at all. Rutherford said some parents view their child as an extension or reflection of themselves, so they may control how the child dresses, or what they say or do.

3. Generational Enmeshment or Covert Incest

A covertly incestuous parent may be replicating behavior they experienced in their own upbringing, or adopting behavior that has been passed down from generation to generation. Hearing a parent say something along the lines of, “You and I are going to be just as close as grandma and I were,” is a strong indicator of generational enmeshment.

4. The Parent Had a Distant Relationship With Their Own Family of Origin

Similar to generational enmeshment in the sense that a parent is responding to their own upbringing, a parent who had a neglectful or emotionally distant childhood may try to “overcorrect” by having a deeply intimate relationship with their own child.

“Maybe the parent had a terrible relationship with their own parent, causing them to yearn for a different kind of relationship with their child,” Rutherford told The Mighty. “[But] since they haven’t experienced what normal and healthy boundaries are, their own needs to be loved and attended to overwhelm the relationship.”

Impact of Covert Incest

Unsurprisingly, this type of childhood emotional abuse is enormously damaging to a child’s development. This is something Mighty contributor Monika Sudakov wrote about in her piece, “Covert Incest: The Type of Childhood Emotional Abuse We Don’t Talk About.” Her words may give you a better picture of what it really feels like to be trapped in covert incest as a child.

I was exposed to sex talk from a very young age. I knew all about sex by the age of 5 and was aware of every man my mom slept with, how the sex was and details thereof. As I got older, this boundary became even more blurred when it came to privacy. I was often told that she was entitled to look at me naked because I came out of her body, as if that ascribed some kind of ownership of my body to her… Even after I was married, my mother always asked about how our sex life was. Did we have “nookie nookie”? [She] seemed to live vicariously through me in an odd perverted way.

I’ve learned in therapy that all of this is not ‘normal.’ It’s not healthy. It’s destroyed my sense of self and has contributed along with my sexual abuse to my PTSD. What makes this type of abuse even harder to heal from is that it occurs within what should be the most sacred of relationships, that of parent and child. While there is still love there, there is also deep anger, regret, disgust and shame. 

Among feelings of anger and shame, common symptoms that can follow a survivor of covert incest into adulthood include:

  • Difficult or distant relationship with the other parent (i.e. the non-covertly incestuous parent)
  • Strong feelings of guilt for “leaving” or “abandoning” the covertly incestuous parent
  • Interpersonal difficulties, especially in romantic relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Perpetual feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
  • Difficulty with saying “no” and establishing healthy boundaries
  • Inappropriate behavior with their own children (generational enmeshment)
  • Identity struggles, becoming a person outside of the abusive parent

Continue reading “Signs of Covert Incest”