Amongst all the noise about parental alienation I wanted to listen to the victims and communicate their concerns. So I did a YouTube Live and talked to some people about how they thought we could solve this ever-growing problem.
Catch the replay.
Children deserve to be allowed to love both parents
Parental alienation is a symptom of disordered parenting, usually narcissistic personality disordered parents, and so any approach to solving the problem of parental alienation, has to involve a psychological aspect.
When a relationship with a narcissist ends, they are at risk of collapsing into the pain of self-inadequacy. In order for the parent to prevent this collapse they have to triangulate the ex partner and the children into the roles of “abuse parent” and “victimised child” in order for them to be able to take the role of “protective parent”. In this role they are seen as the loving, nurturing parent and the targeted parent is the inadequate and abusive parent. This protects their fragile ego and also gives them control over the situation.
This triangle is also known as trauma reenactment and allows the narcissist to replay their own childhood trauma in which they were the “victimised child”. Understanding this element of parental alienation can really help with the treatment. All it takes is the worker conducting a thorough family history interview. When I worked as a social worker, this was included in the Common Assessment Framework (below) but local authorities regularly change their assessment tools which can lead to those important elements being left out.
These were the main issues identified during the Live and I will address each one on individual blog posts.
- parental alienation needs to be recognised as child abuse
- it isn’t always the resident parent who is the alienator
- there are no consequences within the family court setting
Parental Alienation needs to be recognised as child abuse
The behaviours within parental alienation (emotional, psychological, physical, sexual abuse) are recognised as child abuse so legislatively, there is no real change necessary. The issue, as far as I see it, is that professionals are confronted with two parents each claiming the other is abusive. They would therefore turn to the child for answer and the child, who has been psychologically abused, sides with the narcissist. At this point most professionals simply accept that the truth as being the non-narcissist parent (alienated parent) as being abusive – given the fact that the child is the “victimised child” as identified by the child themselves.
There are a few areas for improvement here:
- the child will not be displaying normal-range attachment behaviours to EITHER parent – an observant and diligent professional would easily be able to recognise this
- the child is not displaying normal grief and loss behaviours following the loss of an attachment figure – again an observant and diligent professional would see this
- the “independent thinker” phenomenon presented by the child and narcissist parent will be in-congruent with their behaviours in other settings – a thorough assessment with other professionals and observations would identify this
- the “perfectly attuned and obedient child” described by the narcissist during the assessment is very different to the child witnessed and described at hand-overs with the targeted parent – professionals must address any inconsistencies
- the child will have been elevated within the relationship with the narcissist to “adult” status and so will display behaviours and make demands outside of their normal, age appropriate range – suggesting a role-reversal element to the relationship which we know is indicative of disorganised attachments.
- the parent will be anxious when the child is away from them – indicative of emotional reliance on the child
NOTE: These points should be set within the context and at least 3 of the behaviours would be present for parental alienation to be considered.
Whilst these points are based on well-known and respected theories, very few professionals working with children and families will have received training in them. Therefore in my opinion training on these theories is central in solving the problem of parental alienation. Please check out my courses on our sister site on these theories.