Custody Crisis: Does Parental Alienation Really Exist? Do Family Courts Put Children’s Lives At Risk?

By Charlize Walters, Parent Herald December 09, 06:00 pm

Family rights advocates and experts have long been urging the government and the justice system to recognize the existence of parental alienation. This growing phenomenon reportedly has "devastating consequences" on both the children and the "alienated" parent.

So, what exactly is parental alienation? According to Gibraltar Chronicle, parental alienation is "the psychological and emotional manipulation of a child" that aims to destroy the "loving relationship they once shared with a parent."

Parental alienation has become such a common trend that arises from custody disputes and family breakdowns. But in the United States, experts believed that the nation known as the "Land of the Free" has boosted its efforts to recognize and identify parental alienation.

Several legal professionals and psychologists believed that parental alienation has existed for decades. But due to some political and personal reasons, The Conversation noted that some are still in denial that such phenomenon exists.

The publication added that there have been misconceptions about parental alienation because of the legal and professional disputes that plagued the issue. But the author of the article, Jennifer Harman, who is also a Colorado State University Applied Social and Health Psychology associate professor, stressed that it's time to delve deeper into the existence of parental alienation and not just dwell on the controversies surrounding it.

As per Harman's explanation, parental alienation is not described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a manual that provides a "common language and standard criteria" that is used by mental health professionals to classify mental health disorders. But Harman revealed that Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress (CAPRD) has been added in the fifth edition of the manual (DSM-5).

As described under CAPRD, "parental alienating behaviors" are included such as badmouthing a parent to a child or brainwashing them to believe about the "horrible and untrue" things about the other parent. Preventing a child to spend quality time with the other parent and excessive intrusion are also parental alienating behaviors.

Parental alienation, however, is not the same thing as estrangement. According to Harman, an estrangement occurs when a parent is abusive or in situations that a parent has damaged his or her relationship with the child.

Harman also highlighted the need for well-trained experts or professionals who can identify the occurrence of parental alienation. The reason? Parental alienation has adverse effects or impact on a child's life and well-being.

Based on the article published in Psychology Today, parental alienation weakens loving parent-child relationships, making children to choose sides. In spite of their capacity and desire to love and be loved, children are manipulated to hate one of his or her parents.

Due to the denigration that often leads to a child's emotional rejection, parental alienation is now considered child abuse. In fact, the strategies of alienating parents, which include "spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting and denying emotional responsiveness," are reportedly extreme measures of psychological maltreatment of children.

Taking into consideration the negative impact of parental alienation to a child, 100Reporters pointed out a sad reality that family courts are putting children in danger. The publication detailed that there are cases wherein the family courts turn over children to abusive parents.

Former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal even admitted that custody crisis in the United States has been in a "terrible situation." With that said, many family rights advocates have urged legislators to recognized parental alienation and its impact on both the parents and the children.

So, what are your thoughts on the burgeoning cases of parental alienation? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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