spring 2017 PSG 3
OF PARENTAL ALIENATION
Parental alienation is a devastating problem. We all know that. We live it every day. The consensus is building that parental alienation is a form of child abuse and the data certainly supports this—there are severe outcomes for children such as psychological distress and academic decline, to name just a couple.
As a social psychologist and someone who has experienced first-hand what parental alienation is all about, I take a slightly different perspective on this problem. No doubt, children are hurt because of the lost or damaged relationship they have (or had) with the targeted parent. However, if we stop there, we are only looking at one outcome of the problem, and not fully understanding the source that has vast and devastating consequences to millions of people.
Who is the intended target of the alienator’s behaviors? You got it, the targeted parent, not the child. It is for this reason, motivation, that I consider parental alienation a form of domestic violence. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior that involves violence or other abuse by one individual against another in a domestic setting and it can take many forms (e.g., physical, financial, or psychological) and have many outcomes. If we take the example of the crime of murder, there is not just one blanket charge but rather several, based on the classification by degree:
• first degree murder involves premeditation, deliberate planning, or malice;
• second degree murder involves malice, but no premeditation or deliberate planning; Cont. on p. 5