Frequently Asked Question: What Is Parental Alienation?

Fathers and Families says:
Parental Alienation is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of divorce/separation and/or child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent. Parental Alienation is also sometimes referred to as “Parental Alienation Disorder” or “Parental Alienation Syndrome.” To learn more, click here.

Let's think about this a bit.

What is a [mental] disorder?

(emphasis mine)
a psychological or behavioural pattern that occurs in an individual and is thought to cause distress or disability that is not expected as part of normal development or culture.
If parental alienation is a disorder that arises in such a specific occasion (divorce/separation and or child-custody dispute), can it be a disorder any more than the situation that created this disorder? In other words, is divorce/separation and or a child-custody dispute a disorder (causes distress or disability that is not expected as part of normal development of culture)?

Of mention is that Fathers and Families omitted the term "high conflict" which is usually contained in operational definitions of parental alienation syndrome/disorder. This could be intentional as "high conflict" places an even greater limit on the category of "divorce/separation and or child custody disputes."

Denigrate speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone's character. treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle; disparage: to denigrate someone's contributions to a project.
Let us now decide whether or not a child of a divorce/separation and or child custody dispute may have any valid reason(s) to react in such a manner against his/her parent(s).
(Remember that this denigration is said to have arisen since the divorce/separation and or child custody dispute.) How do we decide if the reasons are valid? How do we even get these reasons from the child? Who is to discover said reasons? And what makes them qualified to qualify or quantify what another being is experiencing, expressing, or failing to express?


This is an interesting word that gets tossed around. Here are a set of the steps involved:
1. Assault on identity
2. Guilt
3. Self-betrayal
4. Breaking point
5. Leniency
6. Compulsion to confess
7. Channeling of guilt
8. Releasing of guilt
9. Progress and harmony
10. Final confession and rebirth
We must decide if the child goes through these steps on his/her own, solely on account of the contributing parent, or via a combination of the two. We also must know if any or all of these steps were a result of the divorce/separation and or child custody dispute, or if they began prior to this point. This is critical.

BUT, the key things to remember with brainwashing are:
Each of thes­e stages takes place in an environment of isolation, meaning all "normal" social reference points are unavailable, and mind-clouding techniques like sleep deprivation and malnutrition are typically part of the process. There is often the presence or constant threat of physical harm, which adds to the target's difficulty in thinking critically and independently.
Is this scenario present, or possible? This would mean that the child does not attend daycare or school, no extracurricular activities, no dance and piano...the child has no friends, no cousins or other confidants...In addition, the child isn't being fed or otherwise cared for properly. In fact, the child is being neglected and potentially physically abused with this parent. Doubtful that this child is being overlooked by others unless he/she is completely cut off from the outside world.

We must ask, can we have a parent doing this to a child, and yet these torture techniques have only begun since the divorce/separation and or child custody dispute? And this parent can maintain this total domination somehow, suddenly and exclusively? And that this is effective in children of any range...from birth to 18?

the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (observed by a physician), symptoms (reported by the patient), phenomena or characteristics that often occur together, so that the presence of one feature alerts the physician to the presence of the others.
Is parental alienation a syndrome or a disorder? Is one more convenient or applicable than the other? We must remember that a disorder " is thought to cause distress or disability that is not expected as part of normal development or culture."

  1. If the child is not experiencing any distress or disability, is he/she suffering from a disorder?
  2. If the distress or disability is expected [given the situation: divorce/separation and or child custody dispute], is it a disorder?
  3. If the distress or disability is a part of normal development [for a child] or culture [of (high conflict) divorce], is it a disorder?
  4. If this "is thought" by whom? Who is doing the thinking: the doctor, the parent, the other parent, or the child?

See Also: Parental Alienation and Loving Relationships: Questions We Must Ask