The Dangers of Disinformation in Academic Literature Pertaining to Parental Alienation

Parental alienation may be an emotionally charged topic within the realms of psychology, family law, and social services. It refers to a situation where one parent (be it a mother or father) manipulates a child to reject the other parent, often leading to severe emotional and psychological harm for the child. The integrity of academic literature on parental alienation is crucial, as it informs legal decisions, therapeutic approaches, and public understanding. Disinformation in this field can have far-reaching and devastating consequences.

I suggest that the idea that one parent would turn a child against the other parent in a separation or divorce is not a new idea.

Understanding Disinformation in Parental Alienation

Disinformation in the context of parental alienation refers to the intentional spread of false or misleading information with the aim to deceive. This can manifest in various forms, including flawed research, biased studies, and manipulated data. The stakes are particularly high in this field because academic findings directly impact real-world outcomes in family courtrooms and therapy sessions.

Impact on Legal Outcomes

  1. Misguided Custody Decisions: Courts often rely on academic research to make informed decisions regarding child custody. Disinformation can lead to misguided rulings, potentially placing children in harmful situations. For example, a child may be allowed to remain in the care and control of an abusive parent, or an abusive parent may gain care and control of a child when their legal team misuses the term / dynamic in a litigation strategy.
  2. Policy Implications: Disinformation can influence family law policies at a broader level. If legislators base policies on disinformation and flawed studies, this can lead to systemic issues where laws fail to protect the best interests of the child, perpetuating cycles of abuse and neglect much like the clerical child sex abuse scandals in previous generations in Ireland and across the globe.

Psychological and Emotional Harm

  1. Misdiagnosis and Mistreatment: Mental health professionals rely on academic literature to identify, diagnose, and treat parental alienation. Disinformation can result in misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment plans, exacerbating the child’s emotional trauma and alienating the healthy but targeted parent further.
  2. Stigmatisation: Disinformation can contribute to the stigmatisation of parents and children involved in alienation cases. Incorrectly labelling a parent as an alienator or a child as alienated can have long-lasting negative impacts on their mental health and societal perception as well as the potential to deny a child a relationship and the affections of a healthy parent as well as his or her extended family.

Compromised Research Integrity

  1. Bias in Research: Disinformation can stem from biased research funded by interest groups with a particular agenda. Such studies may downplay the severity of parental alienation, leading to skewed understandings and inappropriate interventions.
  2. Erosion of Trust: The academic community and the public may lose trust in the field of study if disinformation is prevalent. This scepticism can hinder legitimate research efforts and reduce funding opportunities for unbiased, thorough investigations into parental alienation.

Combating Disinformation

  1. Rigorous Peer Review: Strengthening the peer review process for studies on parental alienation can help filter out disinformation. Ensuring that research is reviewed by experts in the field who can identify biases and methodological flaws is crucial. One example to redress this is the recent launch of the only peer reviewed journal across the globe devoted to the scholarly exploration of parental alienation, titled the European Journal of Parental Alienation Practice. See the link here: 
  2. Education and Training: Educating legal and mental health professionals about the complexities of parental alienation and the potential for disinformation can improve their ability to critically evaluate research and apply it appropriately in their work. The only academically accredited Masters degree in parental alienation studies across the globe is one example of redressing this issue. This was developed in collaboration between and the Institute of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice, Malta See the link here:
  3. Transparency and Replication: Promoting transparency in research methodologies and encouraging the replication of studies can help verify findings and expose disinformation. Open access to data allows other researchers to scrutinise and validate results.
  4. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Encouraging collaboration between psychologists, legal experts, and social workers can provide a more holistic understanding of parental alienation, reducing the influence of disinformation from any single discipline.


Disinformation in academic literature on parental alienation poses significant dangers, from misguided legal decisions and policy implications to psychological harm and compromised research integrity. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, including rigorous peer review, education, transparency, and interdisciplinary collaboration. By safeguarding the integrity of academic research, we can ensure that parental alienation is understood and addressed in ways that truly protect the best interests of children.


<< Back To Blog