III - Long Term Reaction As A Result of Parental Alienation
Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
There are very few recent studies that are concerned with the
long term effects on adults which have been the victims of programming
during childhood against one parent. The few studies that exist
show the long term damage that occurs when children become the victims
of parental alienation.
Part III - Long Term Reaction As A Result of Parental Alienation
There have been relatively few studies, considering the importance
of the subject, on the long-term affects of parental alienation
on adults. One study by Baker (2005a), indicates that there are
at least seven areas where there are likely to be deficits as a
result of parental alienation. This information results from a qualitative
retrospective study was conducted on 38 adults who had experienced
such alienation. The individuals participated in 1 hour semi-structured
interviews during which auditory tapes transcribed verbatim. The
results was then analysed for primary themes and patterns. Findings
pertaining to the long term effects of parental alienation were
analysed with results revealing the following: (1) low self esteem,
(2) depression, (3) drug/alcohol abuse, (4) lack of trust, (5) alienation
from own children, (6) divorce, and (7) other specific responses
of a negative nature. These seven were discussed at length with
adulot victims and provide a first glimpse into the lives of adult
children of parental alienation.
The same author, Baker (2005b), also studied the cult of parenthood
using a qualitative study of parental alienation. 40 adults who
were alienated from a parent as a child participated in the study
about their experiences. A content analysis was again used in the
transcript and a comparison was undertaken to identify similarities
between the alienating parents and cult leaders. Results revealed
that adults whose parents alienated them from their own parent described
the alienating parent in much the same way as former cult members
described cult leaders. The alienating parents were described as
narcissistic and requiring excessive loyalty and devotion especially
at the expense of the targeted parent. The alienating parents were
also found to utilise many of the same emotional manipulation and
persuasion cult leaders used to heighten the dependency on them.
Finally, the alienating parents seemed to benefit from the alienation
much the way cult leaders benefited from the cult: they had excessive
control power and adulation from their victims of adulation. Likewise
the participants reported many of the same negative outcomes that
former cult members experienced such as low self esteem, guilt,
depression and lack of trust in themselves and others. These findings
provided a useful framework for conceptualising the experience of
parental alienation and were also useful for therapists who provided
counselling and treatment to adults who experienced alienation as
The same result was obtained by Gardner (2004). Although the parental
alienation syndrome was considered by him to be primarily a disorder
of childhood, the false memory syndrome was a disorder of young
adults, primarily women. They shared in common a campaign of acrimony
against the parent. It was the purpose of Gardner’s article
to describe both the similarities and differences between these
two disorders in the child and in the adult. Laughrea (2002) attempted
to develop an objective self report instrument called the ‘Alienated
Family Relationship Scale’ (AFRS) in order to identify the
alienated dynamic within the family from a young adult’s perspective.
The AFRS comprised of three sections: Inter-parental conflict,
alienating attitude of the father towards the mother and the mother
towards the father, and the alienated attitude of the young adult
towards both parents. The sample consisted of 493 undergraduate
students of which 417 were from intact families and 76 were from
divorced/separated families. The results suggested good reliability
as well as convergent and constructive validity. The AFRS also discriminated
between intact families and divorced and separated families.
It could be of some value to develop a similar test related to
children who are undergoing the alienating process. At present the
reliance is almost totally on interviews of the various individuals
associated with the alienation process.
An earlier study concerned with the personality characteristic
of children from intact and divorced and intact families studied
retrospectively was that of Fox (2001). 105 college student aged
students aged 18-34 years in either intact or single parented households
completed questionnaires concerning feeling of well-being, social
potency, achievement, social closeness, stress reaction, alienation,
aggression, control, harm avoidance, and traditionalism. Results
showed no significant differences between subjects in terms of personality
characteristics. Female participants scored higher than males concerning
social closeness, control, traditionalism, and harm avoidance.
The results of these few studies indicate that much more work
needs to be done to assess post-alienation sufferers in adulthood.
Only after this will it be possible to strengthen the case for treatment
of individuals as children who have been programmed in this manner.
It can be seen that not only does a child suffer from and is a victim
of the alienation process at the time of the alienation but that
this continues into later life and very often perpetuates itself.
- Baker, A. J. L. (2005a). The long-term effects of parental
alienation on adult children: A qualitative research study. American
Journal of Family Therapy, 33(4), 289-302.
- Baker, A. J. L. (2005b). The cult of parenthood: A qualitative
study of parental alienation, Cultural Studies Review, 4(1), np
- Fox, D. (2001). Children of divorce: Is there a personality
component? Journal of Divorce & Marriage, 35(3-4), 107-124.
- Gardner, R. A. (2004). The relationship between the parental
alienation syndrome (PAS) and the false memory, American Journal
of Family Therapy, 32(2), 79-99.
- Laughrea, K. (2002). Alienated family relationship scale: Validation
with young adults. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 17(1),