CDC-Kaiser ACE Study
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being.

​​Australian legal definitions: When is a child in need of protection?
​CFCA Resource Sheet
AIFS Publications [Aug2014]

Childhood Psychological Abuse as Harmful as Sexual or Physical Abuse

Often unrecognized, emotional abuse prevalent form of child abuse, study finds

American Psychological Association [08Oct2014]

What is child abuse and neglect?

CFCA Resource Sheet

AIFS Publications [Sep2014]

Causes of Parental Alienation

The challenge for a family following separation is to transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure that is now united by the children and by the continuing parental roles and shared bonds of affection with the child. Sometimes the emotional reactions and psychological functioning of one parent in response to the separation prevents this transition. When this occurs children can be exposed to that parent’s continuing anger and sadness.

Alienating Parents and Alienating Tactics

Alienating parents tend to externalise unwanted emotions and responsibilities. They display an abnormal grieving response and demonstrate severe cognitive distortions (i.e., abnormal thinking patterns) that are difficult to challenge.

Alienating tactics used by alienating parents include:

  • Damaging the loving connection between the child and targeted parent

  • Unreasonably interfering with time the child spends with the targeted parent

  • Eradicating the targeted parents from their child’s life

  • Purposefully withholding information about the child from the targeted parent

  • Making decisions about the child without consulting the targeted parent

  • Denigrating the targeted parent

  • Making false allegations of abuse against the targeted parent

  • Utilising support services to facilitate their campaign of denigration and false allegations of abuse

  • Emotionally manipulating the child

  • Demanding that the child chooses a side in the custody dispute

  • Encouraging the child to have an unhealthy dependence on them

  • Inappropriately disclosing adult information about the targeted parent and custody dispute to the child

  • Encouraging the child to be defiant towards the targeted parent


 
Impact of Parental Alienation

The impact of parental alienation can last for years or even a life time.  It denies children a normal childhood free from parental conflict and denies them a relationship with both parents.  It can also prevent a child from having a relationship with the alienated parent’s family.

 
Consequences for Alienated Children

Alienated children display unjustified contempt for the alienated parent and an attitude of entitlement toward the alienated parent. They are taught to have a perception of an “all-wonderful” alienating parent and “all-bad” targeted parent. As a result of this alienated children experience disrupted social-emotional development as a consequence of parental alienation

Alienated children experience a complex grief for the loss of a parent who is still alive. Because this loss is the result of emotional manipulation, alienated children experience psychological difficulties associated with this type of trauma and abuse.  Parental alienation causes emotional pain for children.  The long-term outcomes of parental alienation on children include: social isolation, fragile sense of self, anger, depression and anxiety.

 
Consequences for Alienated Parents

The loss of a child is devastating.  Alienated parents also experience complex grief for the loss of their child who is still alive.  This loss is compounded by being denigrated and vilified as part of the alienation process.  Alienated parents experience despair, helplessness, frustration, anger and confusion. Many alienated parents experience significant financial and emotional costs associated with trying to find a resolution in a legal system and mental health services that do not understand parental alienation.   

Alienated parents are loving mother and fathers who try to keep their child out of the parental conflict.

What to do?

For targeted parents


  • Understand what parental alienation is and its consequences
  • Engage in self-care practices
  • Establish healthy boundaries
  • Avoid emotion-laden communication with your child


For older targeted children

  • You do not have to choose sides
  • Look after yourself
  • Create healthy boundaries
  • Be a critical thinker


For professionals

  • Become aware of what parental alienation is and its consequences
  • Know how children alienated from a parent presents
  • Learn how to identify parental alienation tactics
  • A specialised form of family therapy that is ordered by the Family Law court can help


Parental Alienation is a process of one parent

(the alienating parent)

influencing a child

(alienated or targeted child)

to turn against and reject their other parent

(alienated or targeted parent)

without legitimate justification.  

The alienating parent can also be a grandparent, a step parent and even a non-family member.

Parental alienation can occur even when the relationship between the targeted child and targeted parent was once a very positive one.