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Long-term effects of parental alienation on the child

As regular readers of our Ann Arbor legal blog know, parental alienation is sometimes a part of high-conflict child custody disputes. A recent Psych Central column by Sharie Stines, Psy.D on the painful phenomenon looked at the long-term effects on the child who has been alienated.

Stines writes that the results of parental alienation "are devastating for the alienated child and can last a lifetime." In those long-lasting cases, the child misses a lifetime loving and supportive relationship with the parent they were "conditioned to reject."

The alienated child can "also develop some serious pathological behaviors and attitudes" that can affect their relationship throughout adulthood.

Some of the effects of parental alienation on the child include:

  • Splitting: a psychological phenomenon in which others are viewed as "all good" or "all bad." The person with this disorder does not recognize shades of gray, and he or she "has to split in order to cope with relationships and life in general."
  • Forming and maintaining relationships: alienated children can have lifelong difficulties in developing healthy relationships. They've been conditioned to rid themselves of any flawed person. They struggle to accept even minor flaws in others, and are often unable to be flexible or forgiving.
  • Low tolerance of anger or hostility: adults who were in child alienated from a parent often "have a very low tolerance for any kind of anger or hostility." They often struggle to take responsibility for their part of a problem and in making amends for their mistakes. They often panic when they perceive disapproval and have a low tolerance for negative feelings in others.

Stines adds that the alienated children will, as adults, carry long-term risks of being psychologically dependent or vulnerable as they seek controlling partners to replicate the dependency in childhood.

They also often struggle with authority figures and have "unhealthy entitlement to a sense of rage."

Stines concludes the column by noting that "it is important to interrupt the alienating process during childhood by removing the child from the alienating parent." An attorney experienced in parental alienation divorces can guide a parent through the legal system and interrupt the alienation process. 

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