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;
- lack of independent thinking from the child who is imitating
the alienator’s thoughts and feelings as well as in some
- Destroying mail or even presents from the alienated parent
so that the child will feel the absent parent no longer cares
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The alienated parent is viewed as being a despicable individual
who should be rejected by the child permanently.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- The child or the alienating parent makes statements insinuating
quasi or actual sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered
by the child.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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