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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

June 16th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
I haven’t seen many of their screeds lately, so maybe those who claim parental alienation is a red herring are fading into the background.  Indeed, whether it’s PA or Parental Alienation Syndrome, the only things I’ve run across lately, from articles to studies to essays to books, all acknowledge that some parents carry on campaigns of alienation against the other parent and sometimes those campaigns have serious psychological repercussions for the children who are used in the process.

One of the favorite tactics of the anti-PA/PAS crowd is to (a) pretend the two are the same thing, (b) pretend that, because PAS has yet to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, it’s been “discredited and therefore (c) PA is itself “discredited.”  The intellectual dishonesty of all that is a bit overwhelming, and it doesn’t even include the bogus claims that PA/PAS is just a tactic by violent fathers to get custody of their children.  The latter is easily proven wrong by even a cursory glance at any legitimate literature on PA/PAS.  That routinely says that alienating behavior isn’t gender-specific, but the anti-PA/PAS folks have got a script and continue to recite their lines.

But apart from the huge volume of science on PA and PAS, what interests me is the steady stream of personal stories that flit across my screen almost daily.  All together, these stories do what the massive bodies of social science can never do, or at least not as well.  More powerfully than anything else, they give the lie to the various notions tossed out like tacks in the road in the hopes of slowing the advance of fathers’ rights to children and children’s rights to fathers.  Faced with the countless stories of children who experienced first hand the brutality of alienation, the PA/PAS deniers don’t have a chance.

Here’s one (MD Junction, 5/30/12).  It’s by no means the worst example of alienation I’ve read; it simply tells the story of a girl who experienced her mother’s unrelenting alienation of her directed at her father.  It apparently went on for decades until the girl grew up and started sorting out what her mother had been up to.  Tellingly, she began fleeing her mother’s home at an early age and continued her efforts to put distance between her and her mother long into adulthood.  That quest eventually took her to Europe, but in the meantime, she went through distressing emotional turmoil growing up.  I get the impression that that turmoil is still a big part of her life even though her father has intervened to stop, or at least decrease, her mother’s alienating behavior.

I am the daughter of a mother who tried to put me against my father. She was successful for a time. When I was child, I believed the things she would say. She did it all the time.

“Your father is a monster, Your father hates his family, Our life is destroyed because of your father, your father is ugly I wish I had married a better looking man, I was in love with someone else but it didn’t work out so your father convinced me to marry him instead, what a mistake…” just to name a few examples.

She did that from the time that I was a small child. Unfortunately for her, as I was growing up and entered my teenage years, It seemed that I inherited many of my father’s traits. She really hated that so the abuse went from “your father is horrible” to “You are like your horrible father, you are a monster just like your father” and so on.

At that point, I was completely destroyed. I was doing badly in school, I was doing drugs and drinking, I was always away from home. I moved out young and entered a series of bad relationships…

There now.  Tell me that mothers don’t alienate their children; tell me that that alienation has no effect on their well-being; tell me they don’t suffer.  Most of all, tell me a family court judge shouldn’t intervene as best he/she can, to get that child out of the clutches of the alienating parent.  Go ahead; I’d like anyone to make the case.

But this person goes further.  She elucidates something not often found in these true stories of parental alienation.  The writer points out that her mother’s controlling behavior was actually directed at both her and her father.

For many years, I never told my father what I endured. He had no idea why I was acting out against both of them. It was only a year ago, at 31 years old and living abroad (That’s how far I had to get away from them) that I told him. The reason why I told him was because so many years later, my mom will still continuously have outbursts at me, calling me a “monster and satan just like my father.”

I told him because after a fight with her, he called me and got mad at me. I knew then that she was telling him things about me, just like she was telling me things about him.

So Mom didn’t stop at convincing her daughter that her father was “a monster,” she worked the other side of the fence at the same time.  She trashed her daughter to her father as well.  My guess is that’s pretty common.  It’s a natural outgrowth of trying to turn two people against each other.  The whole enterprise depends on the two not trusting each other to compare notes, and that means convincing each that the other is “Satan.”  After all, if the two start talking to each other with mutual trust and respect, Mom’s whole campaign grinds to a halt.  The truth and open communication are her enemies.  Predictably, once father and daughter got together, it all came crashing down around Mom’s ears.

I told him everything, I told him things that she told me that he had no idea I actually knew, such as that she loved someone else before him.

After that day, he got involved and I think that he managed to start keeping her under control. They are old now, and they need each other. so I suppose she took what he had to say a bit more seriously. I don’t know. He doesn’t talk about it, but the abuse lessened quite a lot.

Finally, she has some good suggestions for parents who are the target of another’s alienating behavior.

From personal experience, I want to say to the parents that are victims and going through this, wait a while and don’t despair. That is my advice from personal experience. It’s unfortunate but I think that when the kids are young, and when they are teenagers, they just can’t understand. They don’t have the ability to really truly know how life works yet but there will come a time when they are older, when they will ask themselves some questions and perhaps will want to seek answers. I suggest you also try and send them an email or a letter saying that you love them and that even though there is trouble in the family, you will always be there for them. They might not respond now, but keep doing it and eventually, it might click in their head. I don’t believe that any child can possibly grow up thinking that he doesn’t need his father. (or mother). Keep showing kindness to your kids and someday they will remember it. Good luck to all of you.

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