Parental & sibling alienation

I have spoken about parenting, but wanted to extend my blog further to talk about parental and sibling alienation. Both are more common than we think or understand.

Parental and sibling alienation is very real and has been around for years. It involves ‘the programming of a child by one parent, who attempts to denigrate, interfere and undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent.’ It also happens with siblings too where siblings become denigrated from one other.

It’s a form of abuse that is common in families and relationships. Family dynamics can be such that it slowly introduces this kind of behaviour. Feuding families and mismatched couples may also emulate this type of behaviour.

It usually comes about because of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple’s conflict and who instead chooses to focus on the need of the child. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept some 20 years ago, brought about through child custody disputes.

Fidler and Bala (2010) report both an increasing incidence and increased judicial findings of parental alienation; they also report estimates of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces involving children; Bernet et al (2010) estimate that about 1% of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

There is also a scholarly consensus that suggests this type of alienation is abusive to children, but unfortunately it isn’t recognised as a form of abuse. The sad reality is that children do become embroiled in their parents’ battles, where a child is continually targeted and who then replaces the targeted parent.

Sadly, this not only has a marked effect on the targeted parent and their other siblings, but on the whole family dynamics too.


Fidler, B. and Bala, N. (2010). “Children resisting post-separation contact with a parent: Concepts, controversies, and conundrums.” Family Court Review, 48 (1), 10-47.

Bernet, W. et al (2010). “Parental alienation and the DSM V.” American Journal of Family Therapy, 38, 76-187.

24 Dec, 2016

2 thoughts on “Parental & sibling alienation

  1. It’s very sad when a parent chooses to behave like this, instead of dealing with their problems with their partner or spouse. I agree it is a form of abuse.

    Thankfully my parents, were too busy trying the make ends meet to behave like this towards me or my siblings; but I do recognise this in the way some parents treat their children.

    1. Thank you, yes I have seen first hand what happens to children and the targeted parent when this happens.

      Not only is this a form of abuse, but it is totally unnecessary. If we have a problem, with our spouse, we need to come forward and say what the problem is, rather than use children as a scapegoat to get back at our spouse.

      The sad reality is that children do become embroiled in their parents’ battles, where a child is continually targeted and replaces the other parent. Although this clearly goes on in families today, it actually dates back 20 years, brought about through child custody disputes.

      It really is a shame is not more recognised or that it’s a form of child abuse. It’s also not fair on the targeted parent, as they’re also exposed to abuse, through the act of being a target, brought about through their spouse.

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