In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 10.9 million kids living in single-parent homes in the United States. When parents are not together in the same home, it introduces the importance of a proper co-parenting relationship.
Unfortunately, not every parent is willing to work together for the good of the children. Pathological parenting involves coercion and active attempts to push the other parent out of the children’s lives. Three key roles emerge in this intricate dance: the pathogenic parent, the targeted child and the targeted parent.
The pathogenic parent plays a central role in this distressing scenario. This parent seeks to manipulate the child’s perception of the other parent. He or she may use tactics that involve alienating and turning the child against them.
Motivations for such behavior can range from unresolved personal issues to a desire for revenge. The pathogenic parent may consciously or unconsciously use the child as a pawn in their own emotional struggles. They are at the heart of fostering an unhealthy environment for the entire family.
Caught in the crossfire is the targeted child. This innocent soul becomes the unwitting participant in a psychological tug-of-war. The pathogenic parent subjects the child to manipulative tactics. They may make disparaging remarks about the targeted parent, plant false memories or restrict access to the other parent.
This situation puts an immense emotional burden on the child. It may lead to confusion, guilt and long-term psychological distress.
On the receiving end of the pathogenic parent’s efforts is the targeted parent. This individual becomes the subject of the negative campaign. He or she faces unjust accusations and often becomes a scapegoat.
The targeted parent may endure a sense of powerlessness and despair as their relationship with the child deteriorates. The emotional toll can be profound. It will affect their relationship with the child and also their overall well-being.
Understanding these roles is crucial for navigating the complex terrain of pathological parenting. The consequences of such dynamics can be severe for everyone. Awareness of these roles is a first step in addressing the complex challenges that arise in such situations. By fostering understanding and seeking appropriate support, families can work towards breaking the cycle of pathological parenting and creating a healthier, more nurturing environment.