It’s becoming increasingly common to be a child of a dissolved marriage and there is a lot of research talking about the effects that this leaves on children. There is also quite a lot of research on how parental alienation affects a child both short-term and it’s long-term effects.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation refers to one parent using manipulation to brainwash their child into distancing themselves from the other parent. The child is fed negativity and often exaggerated facts regarding the alienated parent, even when there are no justifiable reasons for this parent to be eliminated from the child’s life.
So, what effects does the experience of parental alienation leave on the child?
The child naturally needs to have a strong and healthy relationship with both parents. When a child is programmed to hate one of their parents, a huge negative impact is left on their psychological well-being. Severe parental alienation can lead to a child having low self-esteem, self-hatred, symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as the inability to trust other people in their lives.
Developed Coping Mechanisms
Documented cases of child victims of parental alienation also show these individuals turning to coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol addiction. They may also internalise the hatred they were forced to create towards the alienated parent and turn it internally. Furthermore, the child will be placed in a position where they may experience extreme guilt for rejecting their parents. They would not identify the aspect that they are doing what they have been told is correct.
How Does Parental Alienation Develop?
Children are not typically born with the capacity to hate or reject someone of such importance in their lives, especially a parent. These extremely negative emotions are taught to the child and will have lasting effects for the rest of their lives.
Manipulation might also occur, as the child will start fearing their alienated parent, resulting in a lasting negative impact on their emotional well-being. This fear can instil feelings of isolation and lack of security in the child, which, in turn, can affect their behaviour in different settings such as school, extracurricular activities etc.
Long Term Effects of Parental Alienation
Child victims of parental alienation tend to believe that they are not worthy of a loving parent. This might then be generalised in later life, as the child believes that they are not worthy of receiving any type of love or care. This may damage any future friendships or romantic relationships that they would have the opportunity to foster as they grow older. Studies show that alienated children that do not receive any sort of help can even go on to reject their children when the time comes.
The Benefits of Professional Help
The good news is that alienated children that have received psychological and emotional help to overcome the effects of parental alienation have gone on to become well-adjusted adults. Therefore, if you or anyone you know has been a victim of parental alienation, it is vital to reach out and seek professional support.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
PsychLaw. (2013). What are the Symptoms and Consequences of Parental Alienation? Psychlaw.net. https://psychlaw.net/what-are-the-symptoms-and-consequences-of-parental-alienation/