There continues to be tension and disagreement between advocates who are concerned about family violence (FV) and those who are concerned about parental alienation (PA). FV-advocates worry that maltreated children will be allowed parenting time inappropriately with abusive parents. PA-advocates worry that alienated children will continue to live with parents who indoctrinated them to disregard or fear the rejected parents. Too much effort goes into criticizing the writers and researchers who have different perspectives on this important issue. Instead, it is recommended that we put our time and energy into developing evidence-based methods for distinguishing child victims of FV from victims of PA. There is considerable evidence to support a counterintuitive way of thinking: abused children tend to maintain ambivalence toward their abusive parents and engage in attachment-enhancing behaviors, while alienated children, who were never abused, tend to lack ambivalence and hold extremely negative attitudes toward their rejected parents. Data from clinicians and researchers will be summarized to the effect that maltreated children miss their abusive parents and hope to see them again. That is, clinical observations by Fairbairn (1952), Koppitz (1968), and Briere (1992). Also, studies by attachment researchers (Cyret al., 2010) indicate that abused children typically develop an attachment relationship with their abusive parent. Youth in foster care due to abuse or neglect yearn to be reunited with their parents (Baker et al., 2016). These children tend to engage in attachment-enhancing behaviors rather than attachment-disrupting behaviors toward their abusive parents (Baker et al., 2019). Finally, survivors of childhood maltreatment wrote 45 separate memoirs of their early experiences, which conveyed the overwhelming theme that maltreated children were bonded to their abusive caregivers (Baker and Schneiderman, 2015). In contrast, data from clinicians and researchers will be summarized to the effect that severely alienated children—who were never abused—lack ambivalence, engage in a high degree of splitting, and say that they never again want to see their rejected parents. For example, clinical observations by Gardner (1985), Lee and Olesen (2001), Ellis (2007), and Jaffe et al. (2017). Research by Blagg and Godfrey (2018) showed that alienated children manifested splitting on the Bene-Anthony Family Relations Test, while neglected and emotionally abused children did not. Finally, Bernet et al. (2018) showed that severely alienated children manifested an extreme degree of splitting on the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ), while the nonalienated children did not. Bernet et al. (in press) showed that the “PARQ-Gap” score distinguished severely alienated children from nonalienated children with 99% accuracy. This presentation summarizes early efforts to distinguish severely alienated from realistically estranged children in an objective, quantitative manner. It will be constructive for FV-advocates and PA-advocates to collaborate in this type of research.
For several decades, social scientists working in the areas of domestic violence (Gelles, 1980) and shared parenting (Nielsen, 2014) have identified frequent misrepresentations and misuse of empirical research by advocacy groups for their political purposes. A woozle refers to the belief in a claim or effect that is tentatively, partially, or not supported by empirical evidence, and is presented as “the” evidence on a topic at the exclusion of all other research that would refute it. The techniques used to woozle others leads to the magnification and wide dissemination of dubious, faulty, weak, and inaccurate data, often drawn from methodologically flawed and poorly designed research studies. This talk will review historical examples of woozling from the domestic violence and shared parenting fields, and then focus on a latest iteration of woozling from research on parental alienation. Strategies for the identification and prevention of woozling will also be discussed.
This presentation provides an overview of current research into evidence-based practices for parental alienation. The following will be discussed: the need for early identification and intervention; the necessity for a coordinated approach between mental health and legal practitioners; and when transfer of custody to the non-favored parents needs to be considered. A review of the essential components of intervention programs will also be presented.
Parental alienation is a highly counter-intuitive area. American family courts have finally recognized the phenomenon (at times using different terminology), acknowledged the serious harm that it causes, and have attempted to provide remedial measures. But is there a "silver bullet" that will slay this monster? Family law professionals—judges, lawyers, children’s representatives, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators—should carefully evaluate the dynamic before rushing in with “solutions.” Seemingly good measures that may have worked in other family law cases do not work in an alienation situation. For instance, as one domestic relations judge realized: Giving a “speech” from the bench in an attempt to “get through” to an alienating parent does not result in an epiphany or help the situation. Nor will sending off the kids to “therapy.” In fact, it would be difficult to find a more common yet egregious blunder that many professionals routinely commit than advocating for what amounts to traditional “reunification” therapy for parental alienation. Not only are such therapies known to be ineffective, they are known to be potentially harmful – they “validate” an alienated child’s distorted view of the world, encourage the child to express grievances, and give the child some “control” or choice while advising the rejected parent to “listen, empathize, validate, and apologize (or even to ‘find something to apologize for’).” Traditional therapy is contraindicated and typically makes things worse. Even when provided under court order, such therapies are of little benefit. In this presentation, the attendees will learn about how family courts around the country view PA, the process of Reunification in a PA case, and the relevant scientific literature and court decisions.