Contact between parent and child is an essential component of family life and is nearly always in the interests of the child. Contact between parent and child is to be terminated only in exceptional circumstances, where there are cogent reasons for doing so and when there is no alternative. Contact is to be terminated only if it will be damaging to the child’s welfare and best interests.

The term ‘parental alienation’ can be described as the baseless rejection of the alienated parent by the child, whose alliance with the alienating parent is characterised by severe negativity towards the alienated parent. This occurs when the actions of the alienating parent (deliberate or unintentional), in an adverse way affect the relationship with the alienated parent.

Alienation can take on many forms:

  • disrupting with the other parent’s contact,
  • poisoning the mind of the child,
  • impugning the character of the other parent,
  • brainwashing the children,
  • continuously disparaging the other parent,
  • turning a child against the other parent,
  • interfering with the parent child relationship, and
  • consistent and unrelenting efforts to prevent the children from having a healthy relationship with the other parent.

Research suggests a range of negative long-term effects of parental alienation, and alienation may result to low self-esteem in adulthood and depressive signs and symptoms. Alienated children may possibly have reduced levels of self-sufficiency in the adult years, where it has been hypothesised that the intense alliance amongst the child and alienating parent may negatively affect the child’s later independence. The manipulative nature of this alliance has also been associated to difficulties surrounding attachments and relationships, where the alienated adult may either seek constant approval from partners or display distrust.

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Author – Jessica Gooding

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