Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Misapplication of Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation, wherein a child no longer wants to see a once loved parent due to the influence of the other parent, is not the only reason that a child might not want to see that parent. When parents are abusive, neglectful, frightening, etc., these behaviors on the part of that parent can also cause a child to not want to see them. This is not Parental Alienation of the kind often referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Therefore, when a parent has been abusive to their child to the degree that the child no longer wants to see them, this is not PAS. PAS should never be given as a diagnosis, when domestic violence is present.

Unfortunately, PAS is now being inappropriately used as a shield to hide a parent's abusive behavior. This misapplication of PAS is a great disservice to the families where this is occurring, and is dangerous to the children. With this being said, we should also be reminded that it takes a significant amount of abuse from a parent, for that child to become estranged from them. All of the research on domestic violence is consistent in saying that before reaching the point of becoming estranged from a parent, due to that parents behavior, that children will attempt to contort themselves and their behavior to get into the good graces of that abusive parent, in the hopes of them no longer acting this way. Therefore, it is typically only where there has been a great deal of abuse, that a child will want nothing to do with that parent. Small slights and parental missteps simply will not alienate a child from a parent.

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