Parental Alienation Disorder: A Quick Overview

July 14, 2012


Parental alienation is when a child allies himself or herself strongly with one parent (the preferred or favored parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated or rejected parent). 

The rejection does not have legitimate justification.  In other words, if a child rejects a parent because the parent has physically abused the child, this is not parental alienation.  Usually parental alienation occurs when parents are engaged in a high-conflict divorce.  However, “high-conflict” does not always indicate that both parents equally contribute.  Dr. Gardner (2002) noted that target parents are innocent victims.  This does not mean that they do not contribute in some manner, but it suggests that the contribution is unequal.  He pointed out that while rejected parents may have certain qualities that irritated, or temporarily alienated the child, the parent does not deserve the ongoing scorn, rejection, and in some cases to never see the parent again.  The animosity goes far above and beyond what might be expected from minor parental weakness.

Estrange implies the development of indiference or hostility with consequent separation or divorcement.
Alienate may or may not suggest separation, but always implies loss of affection or interest.

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