Why Does a Parent Alienate Their Children?

Why Does a Parent Alienate Their Children?

Often in my practice, parents are confounded as to why their ex-spouse would alienate the children from them.  Surely their ex loves the children and would not want to cause them psychological harm? If you are unsure of what parental alienation is, read a previous post here.

Going through a marriage breakdown triggers a grief reaction in people. After all,  a relationship breakdown constitutes a significant loss. It affects the brain’s neurochemicals and hormones), resulting in a variety of symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, anger, and anxiety. The fundamental difference between the death of a loved one and a marriage breakdown is the person lost is alive. The added acrimony exacerbates the grief response and can set the stage for pathogenic parenting. In the early stages of separation, many parents engage in alienating behavior; however, knowing it is wrong, they feel guilty and stop. Grieving spouses sometimes convince themselves that their alienating behavior is best for their children.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of parents refuse to remediate and lack insight into their harmful behavior. They can become obsessed with alienation and go to great lengths to destroy the children’s relationship with the other parent. Researchers suggest that there is a link between personality disorders and obsessed alienators. Parental motives include anger, entitlement, need for control, revenge, paranoia, jealousy, and unpaid child support. Whatever the parental motivation, alienation is a severe form of psychological abuse and a type of family violence. If this is happening to you, seek professional and legal help immediately to repair your relationship with your child.

Connie Lupichuk, BSW, MSW, RSW, and works at Incentive Counselling as the Senior Consultant.


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