Parental Alienation Syndrome

By: Elyse Ganss

Parental alienation syndrome occurs when a child’s parent unconsciously works to turn the child against the other parent. This commonly occurs during divorce or custody battles. When saying negative things about the other parent, like blaming the other parent for their breakup, alienation turns the child against the other parent. Strategies can include brainwashing, alienating, and programming to cause distance between a child and parent. This behavior has negative effects for the relationship of the child and the other parent and can cause permanent damage.

The parent who unconsciously tries to turn the child against the other parent often exhibits narcissistic characteristics or tendencies in line with borderline personality disorder and are more concerned with their own feelings rather than the child’s well-being. Feelings that may be driving the parent’s behavior are anger and jealousy. Children benefit from the presence of both parents, unless a parent is abusive, and through parental alienation syndrome, children may become estranged from a parent.

If you have been experiencing anger about your co-parenting relationship and have been consciously or unconsciously taking it out on your child, you may be causing parental alienation syndrome. Children being alienated may experience anger, feelings of neglect, exhibit destructive behavior, and lack empathy. It is important to remember that no matter what you are feeling toward your former spouse, your child should not be brought into your separation, divorce, or custody battle. Supporting a child is the most important thing to do during a breakup and it may be helpful to bring the child to therapy to work through their emotions to prevent psychological damage.

If you or someone you know needs support, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit .


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