Editorial note: Today is Parental Alienation Awareness Day. See the list of Parental Alienation Awareness events for more info. –DE
Much has been written and discussed on the issues surrounding parental alienation, or “Parental Alienation Syndrome”. That one of a child’s or children’s parents may become cut off from and out of touch with them has become a norm in modern life. The application of “family law”, and its attendant use of expert testimony, to back up motions to separate children from a parent has in recent years become an enormous influence in the lives and futures of children from across the economic and cultural spectra.
There are those who claim that “parental alienation” talk is mere junk science, that arguments in favor of children’s continuity with each of their parents are used by abusers to hide and even perpetuate their abuses of the children or the other parent or both. Indeed, for its first six years the Violence Against Women Act contained language encouraging petitioner’s counsel to use a respondent’s claim of alienation as in itself “evidence of abuse.” The language was quietly altered in a later reauthorization, but the mindset still stands in the divorce and custody fields, that such claims of children being harmed by lack of access to a parent are generally made by abusive spouses trying to use court strategy to cover their own misdeeds, or even that the exercise of one’s First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances in behalf of one’s children is itself a form of direct abuse of the ex-spouse.
Those who do support further emphasis on ending the separations of parents and children seem to be divided into two intellectual camps: one sees PA as a “syndrome,” apparently a behavioral issue with the alienating parent; while the other view is that parental alienating conduct is indeed criminal and to be prosecuted as a crime against the state such as any other criminal violation. Brazil has tried this second course, to the extent of writing new criminal law into its constitution with which to prosecute alleged perpetrators and enact corrective measures in behalf of children affected. It is beyond the scope of own study at this point to comment on how the effects of this law have manifested themselves, but the field is open to research in a major nation following the criminal interpretation officially.
In the US, the topics of PA and PAS are still highly controversial, with much resistance to the idea that they are worth discussing at all.
But the major flaw in the entire approach to this serious problem for children’s futures is this: that it is taking place among the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons. At the forefront of any debate on the future of children must be parents and families, not lawyers and social workers. Children by their very existence make immediate relatives of two groups of people who were previously unrelated. The birth of a child is the merger of two families, and every member of each of a child’s parental families is for the rest of their life part of their own birthright, identity and heritage, whether with or without working relationships and ongoing ties to each.
In short, to alienate a child from one parent is to cut that child off from half a family, not just one person. A father or mother is the window into an entire culture in which they lived and grew for a lifetime before a child was born, a complete way of life. Parenthood, whether under one roof or not, is not only the act of raising children but of enacting an influence of two lifetimes lived by two parents, intentionally or not. Parents must decide whether a child is raised as half a human being or a whole one.
Parental alienation essentially is a ruling by whatever power that one-half of a child’s mortal existence is ill-founded and not worth upholding as fundamental reality in the child’s upbringing. It is far more than a violation of a parent’s rights in custody rulings, it is indeed an enduring form of mental and emotional torture and brainwashing, a permanent house rule that half of who a child is may not be discussed or addressed. Whatever may have been the original grievance against an alienated parent, real or manufactured, the ongoing results of PA are embedded deeply into a child’s perception of reality itself for a lifetime.
Much more will no doubt be debated before any legal or systemic changes take place, and I anticipate that most of the content will be geared toward the winning of legal cases and not to the enduring legacy of new generations of adults now and from now on, who have lived lifetimes in the confusion and doubt bestowed on them by a parent who followed legal counsel and expert advice long ago, and came to accept the repelling of the other parent and everything about them as a lifestyle and a way to raise a child.
Until the effects on all civilization are addressed, of a growing population of young people living half-lives under the delusions and disclaimers and dramatics of an alienating parent, the true victims of parental alienation, and the ones least aware of it or prepared to face its power in their lives, little will change.
Editorial update: please also check out Fathers Contact. –DE