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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.

Table of Contents

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.

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.

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.

If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

For more information on mental health, please see:

If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
  • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
  • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
  • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

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