In one of my previous blogs 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 and form part of the family scenario.
Parental and sibling alienation is very real and has been around for many 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. Parents don’t have to go through an acrimonious divorce for this to happen. 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, but that is exactly what it is. 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.
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.