Parents Against Parents


I have read the book referenced here; I’d recommend it to anyone who you know that is concerned with or interested in parents’ and kids’ psychology. This blog entry/ interview with the author (copied below) is succinct. I hope it leads people to the book, which has  lots of additional ideas and stories in it.

Parents Against Parents

Apr 01

Welcome Amy Baker author and expert on parental alienation syndrome to Family Life Stories.

Lynne:
In your book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome you describe how parents pit one against the other in an effort to gain favor with children. What kind of person would use a child in this negative way to control relationships?

Amy:
People always ask me this question. I think we all share a deep curiosity in what makes a parent behave so cruelly and hurtfully to their own children and to their ex-spouse. My research has shed some light on this. I have conducted several studies on parental alienation, one of which was with adults who believed that when they were children one parent turned them against the other parent. From my interviews with these people I concluded that parents who engage in alienation behaviors are likely to have what is known as a “type 2” personality disorder. This means that they are not really capable of understanding that their children have separate thoughts and feelings from them. For these people, when the marriage is over, the children no longer need to have a relationship with that other parent. They also might be afraid of being alone or abandoned by the children and have a strong desire to punish the other parent. These parents also tend not to believe that rules apply to them so they are likely to disregard court orders and parenting agreements. They seem to thrive on going to court and are often supported by one of their own parents (who might have engaged in similar behaviors in their own divorce). It has often been said of these parents that they hate the other parent more than they love their children.

Lynne:
Can you talk about the destructive patterns of communication and their impact on children? On adults?

Amy:
When I conducted my first study, I really wanted to understand how a parent takes a child who has a good relationship with the other parent and poisons that child to such an extent that the child comes to despise and unreasonably fear that other parent. What I learned is that verbal and non verbal communication between an alienating parent and his/her child is designed to convey to the child that the other parent is unsafe, unloving, and unavailable and that the alienating parent’s love and approval is only there for the child as long as the child rejects the other parent. In this way, the child becomes dependent on the alienating parent to such an extent that s/he is willing to cut off the other parent. From the child’s point of view, s/he is rejecting the other parent out of his/her own choice. The child is usually not aware of the fact that s/he has been manipulated and pressured to reject the other parent. This is what makes the alienation so difficult to undo: the child thinks that s/he is making the choice freely.

Lynne:
How did you become interested in this syndrome, seeking to explain why it occurs in families?

Amy:
When I obtained my Ph.D. in human development 20 years ago I decided that I wanted to study parent-child relationships, both healthy and abusive and this is what I have done. When I first heard about parental alienation, it seemed to me that it was a very powerful and insidious form of child abuse which was also vastly under-researched. Since my first study, I have been contacted by well over 3,000 parents to thank me for studying this area and to urge me to keep going. This has motivated me to continue to work in this area.

Lynne:
What should professionals and family members be on the lookout for?

Amy:
I have given this issue a lot of thought because it is a truism in the field of child maltreatment that prevention is the key. It is far better to prevent a child from being abused than to treat a child who has already been abused. Unfortunately, too many parents are not connecting the dots and seeing the big picture until it is too late and they have lost their child. Then they look back and see that the other parent had been engaged in an alienation campaign all along. I frequently get phone calls or e-mails from parents describing how they have been totally cut off from their children due to parental alienation, but they didn’t see what was happening when it was going on. This is so sad and frustrating for me because it means that right now there are parents who could be helped if only they knew that there was a name for this problem and that professionals have resources to help them.

I believe that awareness is critical for prevention. For example, the parental alienation awareness organization has brochures and resources on their website to help spread the word. More training for mental health and legal professionals is also required in order to bring the field up to speed on what we know about recognizing and treating parental alienation. Both parents and professionals should be aware of the 17 primary parental alienation strategies (Baker and Fine, 2008) so that they know what not do themselves and what to be concerned about in the behavior of the other parent.

Lynne:
Since often parents who target another parent have mental health or substance abuse issues, what can other family members do to minimize the impact of this emotional abuse on children?

Amy:
Although we think of alienating parents as being sick, not all have drug problems or are mentally ill in an obvious way. Many of these parents are high functioning, charming, and capable people. It is not always obvious that they are abusing their children. This goes back to my point about the need for greater awareness about parental alienation (what it is, that it is possible for children to be manipulated to reject a parent who does not deserve to be rejected). My hope is that people outside the family such as neighbors, teachers, coaches, or pastors who notice that a child suddenly and unreasonably rejects a parent would consider talking to the child and helping the child realize that they can and should love both parents, even if the parents no longer love each other. I have co-written a book especially designed for middle school aged children to help them develop the critical thinking skills necessary to resist the pressure to choose one parent over the other. Instead of being a silent bystander, these adults could become enlightened witnesses to what the child is doing and try to intervene by introducing the book or its concepts to the child.

Lynne:
If an adult reading your book or this post recognizes that he or she has been a victim of this kind of treatment from his/her parents, what can he/she do now to begin healing?

Amy:
Adults who think that they rejected one parent in order to please the other should follow the many suggestions presented in the book. For example I suggest that they understand that they were just a child and could not really help what happened. They need to forgive themselves for the pain and suffering they caused the targeted parent. They also should consider reaching out to the rejected parent in order to reconcile. For some of the people in my study, they were able to do reconnect and that went a long way towards healing their pain and suffering. For others it was not possible. As a group, they all agreed that the time lost with the rejected parent could never be made up. Conducting these interviews was a very powerful experience for me and has motivated me to keep working in this field in order to prevent this terrible for of child abuse.

This entry was posted at http://www.family-life-stories.com/2011/04/parents-against-parents/ on Friday, April 1st, 2011

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About Brian Prager

I am the father of a beloved son who has been retained in Japan by his Japanese mother against my will. My boy has been kept out of contact with me since June, 2010. I am struggling to save him and get justice for us.
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