At its worst, it involves the parent with custody of the child actively and maliciously attempting to programme and brainwash the child into hating the other parent.
At the other end of the scale, however, it can be that the parent with custody does not realise the effect their negative comments about their ex-partner are having on the child (i.e. causing the child, too, to develop a negative attitude towards the non custodial parent).
In any event, the result is, according to parental alienation theory, that the child internalises the custodial parent’s negative view of the non-custodial parent.
In extreme cases, the custodial parent may even brainwash the child into believing that the non-custodial parent is guilty of having abused him/her (the child) even when this is untrue. A famous example of this is American writer/director Woody Allen’s allegation that his ex-partner, Mia Farrow, was guilty of such malicious manipulation of their daughter.
What Are The Effects Of Such Manipulation Upon The Child?
Gardner suggests the manipulated child who develops parental alienation syndrome may be affected in the following ways:
– idealisation of the custodial parent
– demonization of the non-custodial parent
– belief that his/her (the child’s) feelings of unequivocally hatred towards the non-custodial parent stem from his/her own judgement alone and have not been influenced by the custodial parent
– absence of any feelings of guilt about his/her (the child’s) expressions of hatred towards the non-custodial parent
Initially, Gardner proposed that, in the vast majority of cases, it was the mother who alienated the child from the father. However, he later retracted this hypothesis and stated that both mothers and fathers were equally likely to practice such malicious manipulation of the child’s feelings, beliefs and behaviour.
Gardner also stressed that parental alienation syndrome only applies when the castigated parent is not guilty of any child abuse.
It should be noted, however, that the validity of Gardner’s theory of parental alienation syndrome is disputed amongst mainstream psychologists and is not an officially recognized childhood psychological disorder at the time of writing.
However, that does not change the fact that such manipulation of children, and such manipulation’s deleterious psychological effects, are very far from uncommon.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery