Parental Alienation

Southern England Psychological Services

Implacable Hostility Leading to Parental Alienation

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services

Justice of the Peace, (2008), Vol 172, No.12, 185-187

It has been well established by numerous investigators in the area of family problems that the implacable hostility between parents or partners in a relationship which results in a break-up of that relationship due to that implacable hostility, features largely in the tendency of the custodial parent to alienate a child/children against the non custodial parent (Gardner 2002 a,b,c,d; Ancona. 1998; Knight, 2005; Kelly, 2003; Anthony 2005). While the courts are eager to accept the term “implacable hostility” they are less inclined to consider “parental alienation” or “parental alienation syndrome” as this as yet has not been accepted as a “condition” or “syndrome” by the American Psychological Association, or indeed the British Psychological Society. The article which follows attempts to show how the connection between ‘implacable hostility’ and ‘parental alienation’ is very strong indeed. One virtually follows the other.

A recently published book by the author of this article (Lowenstein, 2007) emphasises that link and attempts to make the courts aware of legitimacy of using “parental alienation”, if not parental alienation syndrome, in association with implacable hostility. (Heiliger, 2003; Caplan, 2004; Lorandos, 2005).

Those in the Judiciary who feel that the term parental alienation syndrome or parental alienation cannot be used (Lowenstein, 1999) must also consider the fact that implacable hostility is also not part of DSM-IV of the British and American psychological associations and yet it is accepted readily by the courts. An article published by the author (Lowenstein, 2006) and Enoch (2001) on the subject of “Folie a Deux” produces considerable evidence to the effect that frequently the custodial parent will ally himself/herself with the child and members of the extended family to create a situation where the absent or non custodial parent is alienated in every way, including contrived accusations being made of physical and sexual abuse towards the former partner and/or the child (Baker, 1997; Lowenstein, 1994b, 2001b). This is virtually always disproven, as a reason for preventing contact between the alienated, absent non custodial parent and children. It is nevertheless a powerful weapon used by the custodial parent to attack and attempt to nullify the very existence of the absent partner or demonising that partner, and preventing contact between that former partner and children of that relationship. Hence, many devious and destructive manoeuvres are practiced by custodial parents (both fathers and mothers) in their effort to annihilate the presence of the absent parent due to the implacable hostility (Gardener, 2003) existing during the relationship and even more, following the break up of the relationship. It is especially likely to occur when the custodial parent has established a new relationship with a partner and wishes that partner to play the role of the absent parent. Such individuals will even go to the length of attempting to change the name of the child to the new partner in the relationship. This provides considerable harm and injustice to children who are caught in the middle and to the alienated parent who seeks eagerly to play a role of responsibility in having contact with his/her child.

Signs of parental alienation due to implacable hostility

Signs of parental alienation have been recorded by the current author (Lowenstein, 2007) and Lorandos (2005) and include at least 28 signs many of which are readily observable in children who have been alienated against the absent parent. It must be emphasised again that the result or basis of such alienation is due to the implacable hostility by at least one of the parents towards the other, usually the custodial parent, who wishes to eliminate the influence and contact of the non resident parent. Among the many signs a number will be produced at this point (Lowenstein, 2002; 2005e):

  1. lack of independent thinking from the child who is imitating the alienator’s thoughts and feelings as well as in some cases instructions.
  2. Destroying mail or even presents from the alienated parent so that the child will feel the absent parent no longer cares for him/her.
  3. The alienating parent tends to seek to curtail all communication between the child and the alienated parent whether it is by telephone, in person, or by letter
  4. The alienated parent is shown to be a ‘scapegoat’ and blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the child’s life. The child of course will have no reason for doubting this.
  5. The child no longer calls the alienated parent his/her father/mother and will frequently call him/her names such as ‘liar’ and other abusive names of various kinds. This has been inculcated in the child by the custodial parent predominantly.
  6. The child is frequently insulting and shows disrespect in many ways if there is any contact at all between that child and the non custodial parent. This is done usually in front of the alienator.
  7. The alienated parent is viewed as being a despicable individual who should be rejected by the child permanently.
  8. The parent who alienates the child is actually seducing the child emotionally and in so doing is carrying out considerable ‘emotional abuse’ by carrying out this type of behaviour.
  9. The child is made to feel guilty if he/she shows any interest or love towards the alienated parent. Hence the child will deny any involvement with the alienated parent being fearful of losing the custodial parent as support and security.
  10. The child fears rejection by the programmer and will say and do things in front of the custodial parent to please that person, against the alienated parent.
  11. The child appears to be under control totally due to the indoctrination by the alienating parent. Hence the alienator is viewed as being all good and wise while the other parent who is absent is viewed in the opposite manner.
  12. The child tends to paraphrase statements used by the alienating parent and frequently this language is not typical of a child of that particular age. It is a type of cult-like influence of indoctrination.
  13. As a result of the implacable hostility the child frequently suffers from paranoia in relation to the alienated parent. The child develops a fear of what the absent parent might do which could be harmful to him/herself or indeed the alienator.
  14. The child will often speak in an exaggerated manner of abuse that he/she may have suffered from the alienated parent due to the encouragement by the alienator.
  15. The child or the alienating parent makes statements insinuating quasi or actual sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered by the child.
  16. The language through which the child portrays such information includes such phrases as: “He touches me inappropriately”, or “He has penetrated me”. These are borrowed scenarios from the alienating parent.
  17. It must be realised that children who are alienated no longer know the truth from lies especially if they have been told lies by a parent upon whom they depend so much for security.
  18. The child who is alienated against the non custodial parent will be alienated not only against that absent parent but against that parent’s family due to the inculcation of false information by the alienator.
  19. The alienator will also poison the child against the therapist who may be involved in some form of mediation, unless the therapist supports only the alienator, which of course would be wrong. Hence the therapist is frequently seen as an “enemy” and on the side of the alienated parent because he/she is seeking to provide some contact between the parent who is alienated and the child (Gardner, 2002a,b).
  20. It is often not what the alienator says but how it is said by saying nothing positive about the absent parent. Such statements as: “Father/Mother would like to take you out, do you want to go?” is likely to provide an answer which is negative from the child because the child expects the custodial parent to feel that is what is expected of him/her.
  21. The alienated child often tends to see himself/herself in a very powerful position (Gardner, 2002b) especially if they ally themselves with the alienator. This creates great antagonism against the alienated parent. This is done as a result of the programming of the alienator.
  22. The female alienator, which is more common than the male alienator, since more mothers have custody than fathers (Ancona, 1998), is likely to choose a female solicitor for the purpose of having an ally of her own gender who will back her up whatever occurs. Fathers may equally do the same thing and choose a male solicitor. Such sexual preferences are based on seeking support for their position.
  23. Female alienators are often angry due to the fact that the alienated individual may have a new relationship and this increases the implacable hostility between herself and her former partner.
  24. Some alienators move away from where their ex-partner resides making it difficult for the alienated parent to seek contact and to have regular contact. This should not be permitted by the courts.
  25. Sometimes, in extreme cases of alienation and implacable hostility the custodial parent will even change the name of the child to that of the alienator or the new partner of the alienator.
  26. Frivolous reasons are often given for not wanting to be with the alienated parent by the child. This includes wanting to be out with his/her friends, watching a television programme or having some other excuse for not wishing to be with the absent parent often supported by the alienator.
  27. The child is encouraged to be with friends or play video games by the alienating parent. Again, this is in order to stand in the way of the absent parent having regular contact with the child.
  28. The child who has had a happy history and warm relationship with the now alienated parent before separation or divorce, will frequently fail to remember, or will not be reminded, of pleasant and happy times by the custodial parent. Hence, a child will forget the happy times and consider only those times, mentioned by the alienator, of all the negative experiences of the past, which the child has experienced or remembers again, possibly due to being reminded of this by the custodial parent. Negative experiences are thus reinforced.

It is important for psychologists or psychiatrists, or anyone acting as an expert witness to be aware of these undercurrents of activity going on and not merely accept the version that the child gives of not wishing contact with the absent parent. Frequently the courts will listen to what the child wants of says and abide by this without any deeper examination of the facts behind such decisions by children.

An article which follows will provide ways provided for combating parental alienation based on implacable hostility and hence the treatment of the problem which is so damaging to children as well as the absent parent seeking contact.

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