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Understanding Parental Alienation: Signs, Effects, and How to Address It

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Parental alienation is a serious issue that affects many families around the world. It is a form of emotional abuse that can have long-lasting effects on children and their relationships with both parents. In this article, we will discuss what parental alienation is, its signs and effects, and how to address it.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a process in which one parent deliberately undermines the relationship between a child and the other parent. It is a form of emotional abuse that involves manipulating the child’s feelings towards the other parent by saying negative things about them, restricting contact, or interfering with their relationship.

Parental alienation can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional parental alienation occurs when one parent wants to damage the relationship between the child and the other parent. Unintentional parental alienation occurs when a parent’s behavior or attitudes towards the other parent unintentionally lead to the child being influenced negatively.

Parental Alienation

What Does Parental Alienation Look Like?

Parental alienation is a pattern of behavior in which one parent seeks to damage or destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent. This can take many forms, including:

  • Denigrating the other parent in front of the child
  • Interfering with the other parent’s parenting time or communication with the child
  • Limiting or preventing contact between the child and the other parent
  • Making false allegations of abuse or neglect against the other parent
  • Enlisting the child as an ally or confidant in the conflict with the other parent

The goal of parental alienation is to turn the child against the other parent, often to the point where the child refuses to have any contact or relationship with the targeted parent.

Understand Parental Alienation

The Effects of Parental Alienation on Children

Parental alienation can have significant and long-lasting effects on children. Children who are subjected to parental alienation may:

  • Experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems
  • Develop a negative view of the targeted parent and their family
  • Struggle with identity issues and a sense of loss
  • Have difficulty forming healthy relationships with others
  • Develop a distorted view of reality and struggle with trust issues
  • Experience guilt and shame for having a relationship with the targeted parent.

The Causes of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a complex phenomenon that can have many causes. Some of the factors that may contribute to parental alienation include:

  • High-conflict divorces or separations
  • Personality disorders or other mental health issues in one or both parents
  • History of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Parental conflict over parenting time, child support, or other issues
  • Lack of boundaries and emotional regulation skills in one or both parents

How to Prevent Parental Alienation

Preventing parental alienation requires a multifaceted approach that involves parents, professionals, and policymakers. Some of the ways to prevent parental alienation include:

  • Encouraging both parents to focus on the child’s best interests
  • Establishing clear boundaries and guidelines for co-parenting
  • Providing education and support for parents on the effects of parental alienation and how to prevent it
  • Encouraging parents to seek professional help to address any mental health or relationship issues
  • Enforcing court orders and sanctions for parental alienation behaviors
Parental Alienation

How to Address Parental Alienation

Addressing parental alienation can be a challenging and complex process. Some of the steps that may be involved in addressing parental alienation include:

  • Recognizing the signs of parental alienation and documenting the behaviors
  • Seeking professional help for the child and the targeted parent
  • Engaging in family therapy or other forms of intervention to address the underlying issues
  • Enforcing court orders and sanctions for parental alienation behaviors
  • Providing education and support for the child and the targeted parent to repair and rebuild the relationship


Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that can have severe and long-lasting effects on children and families. Understanding parental alienation is crucial for preventing and addressing this destructive behavior.

By focusing on the child’s best interests, establishing clear boundaries and guidelines for co-parenting, and seeking professional help, parents, professionals, and policymakers can work together to prevent and mitigate the harm caused by parental alienation.

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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