Abuse in relationships is not always physical. A growing body of research has accumulated evidence that abuse can come in many guises, including social and financial, and is related to one party trying to gain control over the other. Washington parents who are experiencing parental alienating behaviors from the other parent may also be suffering from abuse.
Study examines parental alienation
A study led by a Colorado State psychologist has examined parental alienation and determined that it bears many of the same characteristics as violent abuse. She argues that family courts should regard it in the same way that they would domestic violence.
Effect on children
Parental alienation is a controversial concept, however, with some who argue that abusive parents often claim “parental alienation” to cover up their own behavior. When the claim is raised in family courts, it is not only parents who suffer. Children do as well, caught between two parents and often losing their entire relationship with one side of the family.
The study shows that while parental alienation is particularly severe when the parent causing it has sole or primary custody, neither mothers nor fathers are more likely to be perpetrators. However, they do use different tactics. Ultimately, the parent creating the alienation seeks to gain control over the other parent, who can feel trapped and as though they have very few options because they are afraid of losing access to their children altogether.
While the target of abuse in parental alienation is the other parent, children are often collateral damage. The study points to the necessity for parents to try to work together to minimize conflict when it comes to their children as well as for people who work in the family court system to be aware that abuse can come in many guises.