Parental Alienation

An Underhanded Tactic to Win Divorce Disputes

Parental Alienation refers to a disturbing phenomenon where one parent systematically manipulates a child to reject or fear the other parent, often during or after a divorce or separation. From a legal standpoint, it involves the intentional undermining of the child’s relationship with the targeted parent through various means, including denigration, limiting contact and false allegations. From a mental health perspective, it’s recognised as a form of psychological abuse that can have profound and lasting effects on the child’s emotional well-being.

Alternative Terms and Definitions:

Other terms used interchangeably with parental alienation include “child custody interference,” “hostile aggressive parenting” and “malicious mother syndrome” or “malicious parent syndrome.” These terms highlight the manipulative tactics used by one parent to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Scientific Evidence of Coercive Control and Alienation:

Research shows that both mothers and fathers can engage in coercive control and alienation tactics during high-conflict divorces. Studies demonstrate how one parent may use strategies such as false accusations, manipulation of visitation schedules and negative messaging about the other parent to alienate the child. This behaviour is often driven by anger, resentment or a desire for revenge against the former partner.

Viewpoints from Experts:

Experts worldwide offer diverse perspectives on parental alienation.

Dr. Richard Warshak (USA), a pioneering figure in parental alienation, is renowned for his research and advocacy efforts. His work emphasises the critical importance of early recognition and intervention in cases of parental alienation to prevent lasting harm to children. Through groundbreaking research and publications like “Divorce Poison,” Dr. Warshak has shaped policies and interventions worldwide, informing legal and mental health professionals on strategies to safeguard children’s well-being in high-conflict divorces.

Karen Woodall (UK), a leading authority on parental alienation, specialises in understanding and addressing this complex phenomenon. Through the Family Separation Clinic, Woodall provides specialised interventions and support services to families affected by alienation, emphasising the need for holistic approaches that consider psychological, emotional and legal aspects. Woodall’s expertise has contributed significantly to shaping best practices and policies, offering hope and guidance to families navigating the challenges of parental alienation in the UK and beyond.

Dr. Amy J. L. Baker (USA), a renowned researcher and author, specialises in parental alienation and its effects on children. Her work emphasises the psychological mechanisms behind alienation and the importance of early intervention to mitigate its impact.

Dr. Ludovica Maggi (Italy), a clinical psychologist and family therapist, provides insights into the cultural nuances of parental alienation in Italy. She advocates for tailored interventions that consider the unique family dynamics and societal factors at play.

Dr. Claire Cartwright (New Zealand), a leading expert in family psychology, highlights the need for interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing parental alienation. Her research focuses on the intersection of family law, mental health and child development.

Dr. William Bernet (USA), a psychiatrist and professor, has contributed extensively to the understanding of parental alienation in legal and clinical contexts. He emphasises the importance of accurate assessment and evidence-based interventions in cases of alienation.

Dr. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll (USA), a clinical psychologist and author, specialises in interventions to promote children’s resilience in high-conflict divorces. Her work underscores the critical role of co-parenting education and support in preventing and addressing parental alienation.

Dr. Carlos de Sola (Spain), a family therapist and researcher, explores the cultural and societal factors influencing parental alienation in Spain and Latin America. His work advocates for culturally sensitive interventions that prioritise the best interests of the child.

Dr. Linda Gottlieb (USA), a licensed clinical social worker and family therapist, offers insights into the dynamics of parental alienation and its intersection with domestic violence. Her research underscores the need for trauma-informed approaches to support families affected by alienation.

Dr. Eeva Leinonen (Finland), a forensic psychologist and family mediator, specialises in assessing and addressing parental alienation in Finnish family court proceedings. Her research informs policy and practice recommendations to safeguard children’s well-being in divorce disputes.

Each of these experts brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the field of parental alienation, enriching our understanding and informing effective interventions to protect children and families worldwide.

Impact on Targeted Parents and Children:

Parental alienation inflicts deep emotional wounds on both the targeted parent and the child victims. For targeted parents, it can lead to feelings of helplessness, grief and depression as they watch their relationship with their child deteriorate. Children subjected to alienation may experience confusion, guilt and loyalty conflicts, ultimately affecting their self-esteem and ability to form healthy relationships.

Long-Term Mental Health Effects on Children:

The long-term consequences of parental alienation on child victims are profound. As adults, they may struggle with trust issues, emotional intimacy and unresolved grief from the lost relationship with the targeted parent. Research suggests that adult children of parental alienation may also experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties.

Effective Remedies and Interventions:

While addressing parental alienation requires a multifaceted approach, several interventions have shown promise in restoring parent-child relationships and mitigating long-term harm. These include family therapy, reunification programs and court-appointed parenting co-ordinators. Additionally, raising awareness and education about the damaging effects of parental alienation is crucial in preventing its occurrence.


Parental alienation is a destructive tactic that inflicts immense harm on children and targeted parents alike. It’s imperative to recognise it early, intervene effectively and support families in rebuilding fractured relationships. By prioritising the well-being of children and promoting healthy co-parenting practices, we can work towards eradicating parental alienation and creating a more nurturing environment for future generations.

What to do if you are a parent or grandparent who is actively being alienated from your child or grandchild?

If you find yourself in the painful situation of being alienated from your child or grandchild, it’s crucial to prioritise your well-being and take proactive steps to address the situation. Here are some valuable pieces of advice to consider:

Seek Support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members or support groups who can offer understanding and empathy during this challenging time. Connecting with others who have experienced similar situations can provide validation and comfort.

Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about parental alienation and its effects on children and families. Understanding the dynamics at play can help you navigate the situation more effectively and make informed decisions about your next steps.

Focus on Self-Care: Take care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s exercise, meditation or spending time in nature. Prioritising self-care will help you maintain resilience and perspective amidst the turmoil.

Document Everything: Keep thorough records of interactions, incidents and communications related to the alienation. Documenting specific instances of alienating behaviour can be valuable evidence if legal action becomes necessary.

Seek Professional Help: Consider seeking guidance from mental health professionals, therapists or legal experts with experience in parental alienation cases. They can provide tailored support, strategies and interventions to help you navigate the complexities of the situation.

Stay Resilient: Remember that you are not alone and there is hope for reconciliation and healing. Stay resilient in the face of adversity and remain committed to maintaining a positive and loving relationship with your child or grandchild, even in challenging circumstances.

Legal Action: If necessary, explore legal options for addressing parental alienation, such as seeking court intervention or custody evaluations. Consult with a family law attorney who can provide guidance on your rights and options under the law.

Maintain Boundaries: While it’s essential to remain open to reconciliation, it’s also crucial to establish and maintain healthy boundaries to protect yourself from further harm. Set clear expectations for respectful communication and interactions and prioritise your well-being and emotional safety.

Above all, remember that parental alienation is a complex and deeply distressing issue, but with patience, perseverance and support, it is possible to overcome it and rebuild relationships with your child or grandchild. Stay strong, stay hopeful and never underestimate the power of love and resilience to heal even the deepest wounds.