Parental alienation: a mental condition in which a child—usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce—allies himself strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification. Parental alienation refers to the symptoms and behaviors manifested by the alienated child. This term also refers to the relationship between the alienated child and the rejected parent.
Parental alienation is a significant legal and public health issue that disrupts many aspects of a child’s development and formation of a sense of self. It interferes with a child’s ability to form a secure attachment and therefore can interfere with the child’s ability to form relationships for the rest of his or her life.
To learn what is happening with families of parental alienation today, I conducted a survey of target parents throughout the United States. I wanted to learn directly from them about their experience and how it affected them. There were 167 survey participants, with about 10% requesting a phone interview in addition to completing the survey.
Their stories were each unique, while at the same time revealing core consistencies with published descriptions of parental alienation (PA). I found myself sometimes gasping as I listened to the unimaginable, unending personal heartbreak revealed through tears, clenched teeth, or rapid-fire descriptions propelled by the intensity of their feelings.
As I introduce you to the world of parental alienation, I will share some of their stories and quotes to illustrate the behaviors and relationships that create the complexity of parental alienation. Recent books, articles, and videos authored by researchers, therapists, and attorneys who have worked directly with parental alienation for years have also been rich resources for the information presented.
Astonishing new facts I have learned include:
• One out of three parents in the US and Canada believe they are being alienated from a child.
• Half of the parents polled in these two countries said they had not previously heard of the term “parental alienation.”
• Almost four million children in the US have experienced moderate to severe alienation. Parental alienation is now officially considered child abuse.
• 95% of mental health professionals working with parental alienation get it wrong.
• Reunification programs exist that can successfully turn around severe alienation in four days.
These statements seemed unbelievable to me when I first learned them. When exploring updates about parental alienation after writing my story, I discovered that a core group of mental health experts and legal experts have been working around the world for the last few decades to find previously unknown solutions to the parental alienation that is burgeoning throughout the world.
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