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What does parental alienation look like?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2023 | Family Law |

Children have better odds of thriving when maintaining healthy relationships with both parents. However, the animosity between spouses during and after a divorce can spill over into the parent-child bond.

Parental alienation can become common, and studies find that almost a quarter of parents engages in alienating behavior for years after a divorce. Parents who want to combat this damaging practice should recognize its signs.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is one parent’s attempt to turn a child against the other parent. Such behavior occurs without provocation or justification.

However, parental alienation does not refer to a parent shielding a child from an abusive or neglectful co-parent. This type of estrangement may be necessary for the child’s well-being and usually requires legal action.

What are the signs of parental alienation?

Parental alienation can manifest in various ways, and no two cases look alike. However, common indications are:

  • Limiting contact: A parent may subtly alienate a child from a parent by making excuses to restrict contact, such as extending visitations too long.
  • Denigrating the other parent: A parent may badmouth the other directly or with insinuations to poison the child against the co-parent.
  • Withholding information: A person may try to get the child to keep secrets from the other parent or keep the co-parent’s name off of vital documents concerning education, extracurricular activities, health care and religious training.
  • Undermining the co-parent’s authority: One parent may try to create a dependent relationship with the child by criticizing the other parent’s competency and authority.
  • Forcing the child to choose: Some parents directly force a child to choose between the parents and coerce the child through bribes or threats.

Parental alienation can cause long-term damage to a child’s psyche. After a divorce, a parent should watch for signs to counteract such efforts.