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Family Wars: The Alienation of Children
(provided by Dr. Peggie Ward)


The alienating parent has some awareness of her emotional motivations (fear of loss, rage) and little sense of the value of the target parent. Sometimes, an alienating parent will understand the theoretical importance of the other parent in the life of her child, but believes that in her case, the other parent, due to character deficiencies, cannot be important to the child. Their statements and behaviors are subtle but damaging to the child.

1. Communication of dislike of visitation:

"You can visit with your Dad, but you know how I feel about it." "How can you go to see your father when you know, I've been sick; Aunt B is here. Visitation with your Dad is really up to you."

2. Refusal to hear anything about the other parent (especially if it is good):

"That's between you and your father . . . (regarding reports of visitation; plans for visitation);"
" I don't want to hear about . . . (what you did with your father) (especially if it was fun);

3. Delights in hearing negative news about the other parent:

4. Refusal to speak directly with the other parent:

  • When the target parent calls, gives the phone to the child "It's him," in a disgusted tone of voice."
  • Hangs up the phone on the target parent;
  • Silently hands the phone to the child when its the target parent calling.

    5. Refusal to allow the target parent physically near:

  • Target parent not allowed out of the car or even on the property, in the driveway, for pick-up and drop-off for visitations;

    6. Doing and undoing statements: Negative comments about the other parent made and then denied:

    "There are things I could tell you about your Dad, but I'm not that kind of person."
    "Your Dad is an alcoholic; oh, I shouldn't have said that."

    7. Subtle accusations:

    "Your Dad wasn't around a lot when you were little." "Your Dad abandoned me.

    8. Destruction of memorabilia of the target person.

    At this stage alienation continues to occur more frequently during transitional times, but is present in other circumstances. With moderate forms of alienation, all three divorce impasse systems are involved. The alienating parent is facing an internal conflict; the allienatic, parent is interacting with the spouse in a manner designed to produce conflict; and the external forces, such as therapists, attorneys and the court, are involved in the polarization, at least to some degree.

    Information provided by:
    Dr. Peggie Ward

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