A parent engages in alienation of the child from the other (targeted) parent using offhand comments, or more insidiously, a steady stream of alienating comments and behaviors.
Richard A. Gardner describes a suite of distinctive behaviors consistently shown by children who have been psychologically manipulated into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members – typically, by the other parent and during child custody disputes.
An early proponent of parental alienation syndrome, Gardner argued that parental alienation involves a focus on the parent, while parental alienation syndrome also involves hatred and vilification of a targeted parent by the child. Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members. It is a distinctive form of psychological abuse and family violence, towards both the child and the rejected family members, that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce, particularly where legal action is involved. Most commonly, the primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child, but other family members or friends, as well as professionals involved with the family (including psychologists, lawyers and judges), may contribute significantly to the process. It often leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members and, as a particularly adverse childhood experience, results in significantly increased lifetime risks of both mental and physical illness.” (Parental alienation syndrome, From Wikipedia, citing Richard Gardner)
The child, looking for nurturing from both the alienating parent as well as the targeted parent, reacts.
“John Bowlby (1907 – 1990) was a psychoanalyst who explained the child’s reaction to, in this case, parent alienation. “Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive. Bowlby suggested that a child would initially form only one attachment and that the attachment figure acted as a secure base for exploring the world. The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships so disrupting it can have severe consequences.” (Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, in Simply Psychology)
An additional consequence of one parent’s alienation activities, the child is further deprived of the targeted parent’s guidance and nurturing love.
Adult Romantic Relationship Style
The child’s resulting childhood attachment manifests itself in adulthood.- that is, in his/her adult romantic relationship style.
John Bowlby gave them names as well- #1 secure, #2-4 insecure:
- Secure Attachment – Securely attached adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships.
- Anxious Preoccupied Attachment – Unlike securely attached couples, people with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form a fantasy bond. Instead of feeling real love or trust toward their partner, they often feel emotional hunger. They’re frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them.
- Dismissive Avoidant Attachment – People with a dismissive avoidant attachment have the tendency to emotionally distance themselves from their partner.
- Fearful Avoidant Attachment – A person with a fearful avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state, in which they are afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others.
In Laslocky’s everyday language of loving relationships, they are manifest as:
Secure: “Being close is easy!”
Anxious-preoccupied: “I want to be emotionally intimate with people, but they don’t want to be with me!”
Dismissive-avoidant: “I’d rather not depend on others or have others depend on me!”
Fearful-avoidant: “I want to be close, but what if I get hurt?”
(How to Stop Attachment Insecurity from Ruining Your Love Life by Meghan Laslocky)
Parental Alienation could very well be discontinued when its harm to children is recognized.
This is where Counseling on Demand comes in. Such progress may need support.
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