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Parental Alienation Syndrome
Parental alienation is a divorce or argument between parents usually resulting with the intent of using the children against the other parent. Over the last ten years this problem has been growing and becoming a serious issue. The title parental alienation came about in 1985 by Dr. Richard Gardener, who was an experienced child psychiatrist. After knowing the definition of the subject, the question is why would a parent want to alienate there own child or children just to try and turn against the other parent?
The biggest issue inside parental alienation is the issue of abuse towards the children. To give an example of abusive parents researchers at the University of Toronto, and many other universities have taken important steps toward creating a profile of an abusive parent. Professor Gary Walters and Lynn Oldershaw of the Department of Psychology at Toronto have developed a system to characterize parents who physically abuse their children. This helps courts dealing with the problem of parental alienation syndrome to identify parents in child abuse. Over the last five years, Walters and Oldershaw have examined over 100 mothers and they re three to six-year-old children who have been physically abused (Freed). In the laboratory, the mother and child spend 30 minutes participating in activities such as playing, eating and cleaning-up. The family interaction is videotaped and later looked at closely. The researchers have developed a system, which allows them to record the samples of parenting skills. They are particularly interested in disciplinary strategies because abuse most commonly occurs when the parent wants the child to do something they don t want to. As a result of their work, Walters and Oldershaw have identified specific categories of abusive parents and their children. Abusive mothers are too harsh and constantly badger their child to behave. Abusive mothers also seemed to both scold their child and then later give them a hug or be polite to them. This type of mothering produces an aggressive, disobedient child. An abusive mother shows no positive feelings towards her child. She makes blatant attacks on the child and takes away affection or attention. The child tries to engage in his mother’s attention and win her approval. An emotionally detached mother has very little involvement with her child. She appears depressed and uninterested in the child’s activities. In order to put together a profile for all this, the two researchers examine the mother/child relationship and their feelings toward one another. For example, Walters and Oldershaw take into account the mother’s sense of herself as a parent and her impression of her child. The researchers also try to determine the child’s perception of himself or herself and of the parent. Abusive parents are often believed to have poor parenting skills and are referred to programs to improve these skills. These programs are good for parents who were raised by abusive parents themselves and as a result are ignorant of any other behavior toward her child. One of the goals of the psychologists is to provide information to therapists, which will help them to find solutions to helping the parent. Researchers like these work on problems with abuse every day trying to help find solutions for this problem. I would have to agree that in most cases of abuse, the parents themselves had a similar experience in their own childhood and don t know any other way of handling it. Researchers like these need to keep working and analyzing this problem so that maybe a cure to child abuse can be thought of and parental alienation would not happen.
Another problem towards the cause of parental alienation syndrome is divorce among families. Along with abuse, divorce has also become a much larger problem in the past decade. When we pass the year 2000, there is said to be two groups of working age adults. One group will have psychological, social, economic, educational and moral benefits and the other group will have none of those (Kurdek 68). The first group will have grown up with a father present in the house and the second group will have not had a father present at all. The groups will be roughly equal in size. It used to be in the past that all the legal issues were so expensive that no one could really afford a divorce. In Canada the rate of divorce in 1951 was one out of twenty couples. By 1987 one out of two couples got divorced. That seems like a huge increase in a little amount of time. Though the rate has increased it is still not all that easy to get through a divorce. According to sociologist Lenore Weitzman, divorced women get by on about 64% of the income they had during marriage. For their children, this means less money for school activities, clothes, opportunities for traveling, day care and sometimes food (Despert 45). If this happens children could be called on to do adult chores before they are ready, like caring for younger siblings. Older children may be required to work long hours at a job to help bring money to the family. As a result, they may fall behind in their schoolwork. After a while, the child may feel it is hopeless to try to keep up and decide to quit school. If a divorce occurs a young girl in a family may decide to get pregnant and bear a child. She may feel like doing that because her life will have more meaning and she will receive unconditional love from her own child. The father plays an important role in all this because he provides a love that is different than the mother’s. The mother usually provides unconditional love. Father’s love usually has to be earned through achievement. The child must work for the Father s love. This type of love may sound like unreal love, but I think it is real. I think if a child is lucky, he or she will have the benefit of both kinds of love. We as a society need to recognize that marriage and parenting is a difficult job but can also be rewarding. Children’s needs should always come first. If there are difficulties in the marriage, couples should commit to counseling unless the situation is dangerous for the mother and children. I feel that the only solution for divorce is for people to start discussing their future before marriage. It may be against some people s morals to live together before marriage but I think that it should start being considered. If that were the case then couples could experience what living together will be like, so if they do find any differences between one another a separation will happen before it becomes legal or alienates any children they might have.
If a divorce does occur there are several things that can be done to try and still keep the children from falling apart. Usually these steps need to be taken by the father because the children almost always end up with the mother. The father needs to keep an open line of contact with both the children and the mother (Oakland 25). The father needs to try and move on with his life because if the children ever show up, they need to see the father they knew leading a full life, not a depressed man whose life is falling apart. It also helps to talk to other people about the situation. A lot of people may have the same problem and talking about it will relieve a lot of inner tension. When a divorce occurs it creates the feeling of a lost child so the partner that gets separated from the child just needs to try and accept the situation and go on with life.
Above explains the problems that can cause parental alienation, now I will show how parental alienation can be handled. Basically there are two ways to which it can be handled, medically and legally. Medically parental alienation is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations typically suffer from depression and anger (Freed). The expression of these feelings takes on the form of taking away love and communication from the children. Medically it is also closely related to sexual abuse used to stop the father from having contact with the children. A big part in sexual abuse is the Stockholm syndrome, which describes the children as hostages, afraid of the mother, and obeying her as a means of survival. There are also aspects of False memory syndrome. In this case the child may be told things about the father that aren t really true.
Legally parental alienation is recognized as a behavior pattern but often goes under other names such as coaching or prejudicing and synonyms of brainwashing. Although recognized by the courts it is rarely acted upon because as a form of emotional abuse it is very difficult to define, and would require bringing in Social Services. The other forms of child abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect, and are more easily identified. Making abuse a better topic for the courts to handle. Emotional abuse can only be registered in the court as part of these. Some courts will act upon it, but do so by simply ignoring the mother s claims of the child s wishes and show that she is being hostile towards the children (Freed). The more educated courts will order family therapy, and ensure that visitation rights are kept for both parents. Anyone claiming parental alienation should always look for family therapy as a way forward. Although parental alienation is currently recognized, but not acted upon commonly, it is actually a crime to encourage hatred on the basis of color and religion (Freed). Also the government is considering making stalking a crime on the basis of emotional abuse. In the United States one father had visitation suspended because his daughter hated him even though he had made every reasonable effort to form a relationship with her. When something like this happens, the court would prevent parental alienation from being used as an excuse in the law.
In either of these cases it is most common for the mother to take custody of the children. There are several reasons for this, one is that the mother wants all the money and property from the father using the children as excuses for it all. Another is that the father is cheating on her and she uses the children as excuses to try and get rid of him. The list goes on and on, usually making the mother the main factor in divorce or abuse. Either way it is alienation towards the children who don t have any idea of what is happening between their parents.
Because parental alienation is becoming such a big problem in today s society, there are several ways to try and prevent it before it becomes a legal matter. More and more books are being published explaining the problem and including solutions for the problem. If a family does end up going through a break up it would be best for the whole family to research their problem to end up being in the best interest of the children.
Parental alienation syndrome is a serious problem that is getting worse and worse as time goes on. Both child abuse and divorce are main factors in parental alienation and they too are becoming a serious problem. Even though psychologists are coming up with new ways to try and prevent the problem the solution actually lies in the parents that are going through it. So, why would a parent want to alienate his or her own child to try and turn against the other parent? It is a question that not only I ask, but also thousands of psychologists and doctors ask themselves every day. If a couple wants to get married and have children, it should be thought over thoroughly because the main focus or importance of a family is the children.
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