Parental Alienation Syndrome: How It Affects the Child and Family, 5 Ways to Avoid It

divorce affecting the child and his behaviour as both want to take

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Generally, when a married couple is considering divorce, they, directly or indirectly, make each other their enemies. Well, this is not always true in real life but do you really think one spouse will truly say “my spouse is an amazing husband/wife” or “my spouse is an amazing parent” while having a divorce?

This divorce thing makes both of them enemies of each other even if they do not want it but gradually the whole divorce process makes sure they lose the respect in each other’s eyes.

The feeling of hatred towards each other creates a conversation between the spouse and the child or other family members which otherwise would not happen.

Let’s talk in detail about the adverse effect of these conversations and how to avoid them.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) occurs when a parent intentionally undermines contact with another person who has parental responsibility.

taking children away after divorce - both father and mother taking one child each
Family splitting up and getting a divorce

Children are taught that they should reject one of their parents; children may also be told negative things about them by the rejecting parent.

PAS is seen as a form of emotional abuse that can seriously disrupt the relationship between children and their parents, with long-lasting implications for those involved.

Parental alienation is a general term for the emotional or psychological manipulation of children by one parent against another.

What is the reason behind Parental Alienation?

The reasons behind parental alienation are not always clear.

As this syndrome is purely emotional and psychological, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact reason behind it.

  1. Some experts say that it is an unconscious defence mechanism that occurs in a situation where the rejecting parent feels threatened or overwhelmed, and therefore alienates themselves from both their parents and children to protect themself emotionally.
  2. Others believe that PAS arises because of unresolvable conflicts between separating partners; for example when one parent has been abusive during the relationship may continue this behaviour by behaving violently towards the other’s new partner. In such situations, they might use their child as a weapon against the other person with whom they have now become involved resulting in Parental Alienation Syndrome occurring within families.
  3. Another reason for PAS is when one parent, usually the child’s mother or female guardian, spreads vile rumours about their spouse to undermine them in front of the children.
  4. The parent who alienates the child from the other parent might be angry with, or hurt by, either one or both spouses in divorce proceedings or separation. Other reasons for PAS include mental illness, personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissism, antisocial behaviour patterns and substance abuse issues.

What are the types of PAS?

There can be few types of PAS, like

Malicious PAS – this occurs where there has been an attempt on behalf of one parent to deliberately alienate the child against another parent; often conducting campaigns with continual lies that make it more difficult for a relationship between father/mother & child.

Neglectful PAS – this is where the child has been neglected and not given sufficient contact with one parent.

Insecure or Ambivalent PAS – the child oscillates between loving one parent to hating another. This can be due to a lack of stability in their lives and they are unable to form lasting bonds with either parent.

Hostile Aggressive Alienation – when there’s anger and resentment towards the targeted parent from this child (e.g., “You’re not my dad!”). The target may feel rejected by his/her own family members who have turned to the alienated parent as an authority figure.

Fearful or anxious detachment – when the child rejects both parents but feels too scared to be close with either one because he/she has been bullied into submission and fears rejection if they try again.

Indifferent Alienation – where the child shows no preference between parents but struggles to form connections with either one.

What are the effects of PAS?

There are some effects from parental alienation syndrome which cannot be seen by outside observers; these include –

  1. Children who have been exposed to PAS are at risk of developing mental health problems including anxiety disorders, depression, and drug addiction.
  2. Children may also experience difficulties in social relationships; this includes both friendships and romantic relationships later on in life.
  3. PAS can have a detrimental effect on the child’s ability to trust others, and it may lead them to believe that they are unworthy of love.
  4. It is also possible for children who were exposed to PAS as young adults or teens to experience difficulties in their adult relationships, including divorce, an inability to form trusting bonds, difficulty connecting with friends and family members, and other relationship-related issues.
  5. The rejecting parent will often become more involved than usual in the lives of all the children to demonstrate his/her dominance over them.
  6. Some children may feel less important to sharing or empathy such as not meeting on holidays or festivals leading the relationship to be more toxic.
  7. The worst is – the child is now seemed to be one’s “enemy.”
child affected by parental alienation syndrome

Should you, as a parent, be worried?

Parental alienation syndrome is most common when one child strongly supports an alienating parent over the other or where there’s rigid opposition between parents about custody arrangements which leads to them pulling their children into it too.

Parents experiencing parental alienation syndrome often don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong because they feel justified by what they see as being.

Is this a new phenomenon?

Parents have been known for parental alienation since ancient times when fathers would often take on more roles in parenting than mothers.

The term “alienation” was first used by English psychologist John Bowlby in 1973 to describe how parents can emotionally detach themselves from their children during divorce proceedings and custody battles.

In an interview in the USA, forensic social worker, Keith J. Luria explained that the child’s perspective is often neglected during custody battles and alienating parents will use this to their advantage by convincing the children that they are loved more than any other parent.

What can be done to avoid it?

This is the main thing for which this whole post is being written. Please read it thoroughly.

There can be several ways to avoid PAS like

  1. Educating oneself on the potential risks and signs of alienation. Parents can form a support system to help maintain their relationships with their children. Getting a proper professional assistance can also be an option when it comes to managing parental conflicts, especially for short tempered couple or those who are dealing with family violence.
  2. The other thing parents should know about PAS is that it’s not always intentional from either party involved; there may be mental illness present which has led one parent to exhibit this behaviour without realizing what they’re doing.
  3. The other way to avoid it is to make sure you’re not putting the child in a position where they have to choose one parent over another. For example, if the child is spending time with one parent when they come to pick them up from school and then have to go back for after-school care or activities at another site, it could be a good idea to let the other parent know so that they can make their own arrangements.
  4. The other tip to avoid parental alienation can be to be conscious of the child’s needs and what they are going through. If you find that your spouse is keeping information from you or not giving you a chance to talk with the kids, do something about it!
  5. The most practical and easy way to avoid PAS is to have open and honest discussions with your spouse about the children. If you don’t know what’s going on, it can be difficult for you to provide any other advice or support that will help heal this rift in the family.


In conclusion, we can say that even though the concept of parental alienation is not new, it has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) can be one of the most difficult things for children to overcome because they feel like their parents are choosing sides and that behaviour can have lifelong consequences on them.

In summary, we may say that Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of child abuse and this can discourage children from maintaining relationships with their parents.

It can take months or years to make things right, but there are ways for you to get started on the way back to reconciliation.

We recommend professional help in these situations; it may be difficult at first for them too because they have been made aware of what has happened so they need time before being able to continue working with your family. Even if you do not want therapy, enlisting a neutral third party can help manage mediation sessions between step-families members who will also offer advice about how best to go forward together as one united family unit.

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