Explained by DR. STAN KOROSI PHD Principal Consultant-Director Administrative Services Director-Family Bridges Workshop

Parental alienation goes by many names to avoid confronting its ugly reality as a social and severe public health issue with potentially fatal outcomes. The social sciences are replete with research demonstrating how destructive, if not deadly, the process of alienation is for parents and children. Alienation is an ideology that dehumanises parents and treats children as disposable and tradeable assets. It defines family by membership in a voluntary and temporary social group. And memberships can be cancelled! Alienation is a cancel-culture. It uses narratives to construct alternate and false realities that make discrediting, vilifying a parent, and coercing their children to revoke their membership appear normal. The solutions are counter-narratives to “de-normalise” and disrupt alienation processes and structural de-alienation through social institutions such as Family Law to reinstitute family membership. Structural de-alienation also requires grassroots social action to change social attitudes and laws to apply more equitable approaches to parental alienation as a social and public health issue. – Stan Korosi


According to research, parental alienation often presents in families dealing with divorce, separation, and shared parenting disputes. Alienated parent-child relationships are marked by children’s unreasonable and irrational rejection of a parent they previously loved that is disproportionate to their historical relationship and by unique traumatic effects on alienated parents.

Parental alienation is a process that undermines intact marriages or relationships for some time before it presents itself. Alienation occurs when one partner attempts to isolate the other from their child. In severe cases, alienation may be intentional; the favoured parents want to remove the targeted parent from their child’s life.

There are other reasons for children to resist or refuse a relationship with a parent. Alienation and estrangement are different. Estranged parent-child relationships may occur because the child has a valid reason to distance themselves or reject a parent who may be abusive or neglectful. Sometimes it may result from a child’s natural defence against a perceived negative aspect of their life. Additionally, children may naturally affiliate with one parent as part of their development whilst retaining a relationship with both.

Parental alienation may be confused with high-conflict family dynamics. Alienation may result in high conflict, especially when targeted parents take action to recover their children’s relationship with them. Alienated children are more likely to develop polarised and unrealistically idealised views of their favoured parents and negative views of their targeted parents than children exposed to family violence or abuse.

Parental Alienation uses a set of parenting behaviours to coerce the child against the other parent with whom the child has a prior loving relationship. It causes psychological and social harm to children by disrupting the bond between them.

Some methods used by an alienating parent can include inducing the child to denigrate the other parent, coercing the child into cancelling their other parent’s identity, limiting contact between them, forcing a child to choose one parent over the other, making the child reject extended family members and making unsubstantiated allegations. Parental alienation can have a lasting and damaging impact on both parents and children. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, attachment difficulties, substance abuse and suicide.

It is important to remember that parental alienation does not always involve direct actions. Sometimes, it is done indirectly through a third party or by creating an environment that discourages the child from interacting with the other parent. Parental alienation can be damaging for all involved, and steps should be taken to ensure children have access to both parents in a healthy and supportive environment.

Parental alienation has lasting effects on children. Its process of manipulation and coercion may make it difficult for them to maintain healthy relationships with both parents. 

It is essential for all parties involved in family separation proceedings to be aware of the signs of parental alienation and the potential effects this behaviour can have on a child. Parental alienation can disrupt a child’s emotional security, leading to anxiety and depression in some cases. Additionally, parental alienation can damage the relationship between a parent and their child, making it harder for them to maintain an appropriate level of trust. Both parents need to be aware of this issue and take steps that can impact their children. 

Parental alienation can cause significant emotional distress for both the child and the alienated parent, leading to mental health issues in the child and the parent they reject. Parental alienation is considered a form of emotional abuse, as it can cause long-term psychological and social damage to the child. It is essential for parents embroiled in parental alienation dynamics to seek professional help from an alienation-trained practitioners such as mental health provider or family therapist to address the underlying issues and help the family resolve the conflict.

Parental alienation should be taken seriously, as it can have long-term detrimental effects on the child and their relationship with the alienated parent. Children can be resilient, and milder forms of parental alienation do not necessarily mean an end to a healthy relationship between the two parents or the child. With professional help, separated families can find a resolution, and both parents can work towards rebuilding their relationship with their child.

In severe parental alienation cases, it is more likely that the alienating parent will not engage with professional support or undermine it if they do. In such cases persisting with family support while assuming both parents are collaborating will cause more harm to the children and the rejected parent. Stronger, more direct measures may be required that may require engaging with Family Law processes.

By understanding parental alienation, parents can take steps to prevent it from occurring in their family. Parental alienation should never be accepted as normal; instead, it must be addressed before it causes long-term damage. Parental alienation can be successfully managed with the right interventions and support, allowing families to come together in a healthy and supportive way. Joining one of our peer support groups for Mums and Dads in Distress is a great way to navigate this difficult time.