A striking case of alienation by a non-resident parent

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 15.55.38Read the interesting personal case story in the Guardian – an unusual Parental Alienation pattern and a good opportunity for us to raise PA awareness.

The case is unusual in that the non-resident father seems to have done quite a few dastardly things to get back at his ex-wife … including coached the young children to make false allegations against her new partner. So it looks like – and is! – a story that chimes in with the dominant “all men are bastards” culture around us.

But it also gets a wide readership half the way to see why alienation by anyone is really awful and harmful. So it is a chance to get them to complete the other half of that journey! It’s worth reading in full because it provokes a range of emotions and responses that require to be thought through carefully.

There are also loads of interesting comments from lots of people on the Guardian web page. Below is the response I made there.

It seems to me that we need to carefully and actively use this kind of widely public opportunity to publicise our concerns and raise awareness of PA. What do you think? You can comment below on any aspect of this case, or the issue of how we broaden the interest so that we reach the unconverted rather than just preach to the converted.

Nick Child, Edinburgh

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Nick’s Comment on Jo Barrell’s story in the Guardian.

As a mental health professional, I’ve recently become especially interested in child and parental alienation. See this concise but comprehensive review designed for a UK context: http://tinyURL.com/NickChildPA. And see this active weblog too:http://thealienationexperience.org.uk
Jo Barrell’s story is unusual in that the alienation is done by the non-resident parent (indirectly) against the resident one/s. That and the other traumatic if not criminal intrusions into the children’s main home and family, make it seem worse than the many more usual cases of longstanding alienation.
We know how serious any ongoing alienation can be for children even more than it is for the parents, who are naturally about as abidingly stressed and traumatised as it is possible to get. So this terrible story should raise a more general concern for ALL alienation cases. Don’t take it just to confirm the “all men are evil” assumptions that dominate just now. Please take your interest further by visiting those links above.
I would underline several of the other comments made above.
T is a non-resident parent doing the alienating – and in a nasty indirect way via the new partner in his ex-‘s family. Usually it’s the resident parent who shapes the child to reject the other parent without good reason to do so. The shaping up is not always done as strategically and wilfully as T seems to have done it.
Because the main resident parents are more often mothers, then it is often the father who is being rejected. This leads to the mistaken view that alienation is really just a woman’s way to protect herself and her children from an abusive ex-male partner. But alienation happens with any genders … even with same sex ex-partners.
You cannot come to final conclusions or judgements about complex stories like this one without a full and proper assessment. It sounds like someone did that well enough in this case – though that doesn’t mean it was any less awful to go through.
Often cases of alienation are not handled well by anyone – family, professionals, or courts. That’s because people are not aware enough of the counter-intuitive way that alienation can present – the child strongly rejecting or hatefully accusing, without good reason, because of a mixture of being shaped up to do that. But actually that child is one the one who is liable to suffer most harm, and it is their favoured parent who may be doing most of that damage. No one finds it easy to get the hang of that.
Jo’s story shows how destructively easy it is to put false allegations into play – but that is because we are equally concerned to make sure that true allegations of risk are properly assessed and acted on. So of course no assumptions can be made about whether allegations are true or false – they all need to be dealt with promptly and properly.

Nick Child, Edinburgh Retired child psychiatrist and family therapist

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About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink now family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.

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