In the long run, most children survive their parent’s split, but what can be very damaging is Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS, which parents sometimes inflict on their children unintentionally. PAS happens when one parent poisons a kid’s relationship with the other parent. Sometimes PAS is intentional with one parent intent on severing the child’s relationship with the other parent, but sometime PAS is innocent or unconscious.
The parent who rudely hands over the child for visitation may unconsciously prime the child to mimic her; for example, the mother who hands over her daughter without even a civil word to her former husband and then fires off an insult about his housekeeping. Her child, wanting to please her mother, mimics her mother’s coldness to her father. Over time, this becomes a pattern. The mother may not even realize that remarks like that have an impact on children who want to love both parents.
Later as a teenager or as an adult the children realize the harm the alienating parent caused. The children end up without close relationships to either parent. When the alienating parent is over the top, the court sometimes steps in and gives full custody to the non-alienating parent, but very often this does not happen because little remarks (“you need to clean the house”) are not actionable in a court.