Amy Baker’s original: Comparing cults and Parental Alienation


Amy JL Baker

Let’s continue to tap into the benefits of taking a broad perspective on all kinds of harmful coercive patterns.

Many of those who work with Parental Alienation in families owe a great debt to Amy JL Baker’s research and book:

Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind.

In particular, a new reader is hit hard by her compelling comparison with how cults function.

Her original report is well worth reading too. The phrase ‘the cult of parenthood’ hits the spot exactly.  For those who have yet to read the book, this gives you the hard hit quickly and for free!!  It was published in the Cultic Studies Review (2005), 4/1:

The Cult of Parenthood: A Qualitative Study of Parental Alienation .

Her findings

To tempt you to read the full paper, here are her headings of the findings from that research, organised to show how closely the same features apply in Parental Alienation as they do in cults.

A Leader who Requires Excessive Devotion

Use of Emotional Manipulation and Persuasion Techniques to Heighten Dependency on the Leader

  • Relentless Badmouthing of the Character of the Other Parent to Reduce Their Importance and Value
  • Creating the Impression that the Targeted Parent was Dangerous and Planned to Hurt the Child in order to Instill Fear and Rejection of the Parent
  • Deceiving the Child about the Targeted Parent’s Feelings in Order to Create Hurt, Resentment, and Psychological Distance
  • Withdrawing Love if the Child Indicates Affection or Positive Regard for the Targeted Parent
  • Erasing the Other Parent

Cults Further the Aims of the Leader at the Expense of the Needs of its Members as Well as Others

  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Lack of Trust

But now you really do need to go and read the full article. It’s here:

Amy JL Baker (2005) The Cult of Parenthood: A Qualitative Study of Parental Alienation.  Cultic Studies Review, 4/1.

Nick Child, Edinburgh

About Nick Child

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

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