Women’s Aid (WA) Ireland have made a submission to the above regarding Parental Alienation (PA). There are a number of shocking inaccuracies in their submission. I feel obliged to respond to.
Their first myth refers to the definition they have provided on page 5, paragraph 4 for PA where they state at the outset
“According to the PA construct, when a child does not want to engage with /rejects a parent, it is assumed that the other parent has caused the alienation“.
Informed practitioners will acknowledge. There are many reasons why a child might reject a relationship with their other parent be it a mother or father. An obvious example would be that of an abusive or neglectful parent. In cases such as these it is considered realistic estrangement because there are valid reasons for a child to reject a parent. It is only when there are no valid rationales provided by a child to understand the rejection of a normal range healthy parent that we can consider the idea of parental alienation dynamics in a family. It is also worth mentioning children who have actually been abused will minimize the abuse, protect the abuser, continue to seek a relationship with the abusive parent. This is a very different presentation to that of a child subjected to the dynamics of PA.
Another myth put forward by WA Ireland relates to a case study provided on page 12 referenced as “Joyce”. It states the following ” …. .their father has never been in their lives”. “The children do not know this man”. They have not provided a rationale as to why one parent would be a stranger to their child. This is crucial information to omit.
The key point is if, a child has not had a previous warm loving relationship with the now rejected parent. It can never be Parental Alienation. In these circumstances. The family must exit the parental alienation assessment pathway at that point. To continue an assessment for Parental Alienation in these circumstances is clinically contra-indicated.
If this case is true it represents a poor assessment by the practitioner concerned. This is not a reason to dismiss the entire phenomenon. It supports the idea of training in PA for all professionals working with young people and families.
A further myth provided by WA relates to Page 13 another Case Study 2 “Angela” reports “…her children tell her they do not want to go on access…“. WA do not say why the children do not want to go on access. Crucial information has been omitted here too.
Below, I have provided some of the reasons provided to me by young people when I have probed their presented narratives that usually commence with “I never want to see her / him again” or “He /she abused me”. It is important to note all of the following had been denied contact and a relationship with their other normal range healthy parent for at least one year based upon the following:
- “I do not need her in my life”, 10 year old,
- “My mum’s grandparents spoil us, it is not good for grandparents to spoil children”,
- “Under article 12 of the UN convention I do not have to see her ever again if I do not want to”, 11 year old female,
- “When I was one year of age she would not change my nappy”, (13 year old)
- “Before I was born she wanted me terminated (7 year old female),
- “Mum lets me stay up later than dad”
- “Dad lets me have more time on my computer games”
- “He puts avocado on my toast”
- “She always invades my space trying to hug me”, (5 year old)
- “I remember when I was two he was mean to mammy”
- “She makes funny foods with steak mince, I prefer the burgers from Aldi”
- “She puts honey on my porridge”
- “Mum will give me a letter to have my homework done, he won’t”
- “He gives me chores and mum does not”
- “He is selfish because he always works”
- “She had an affair”
None of the previous reports referenced the above. They simply documented “the child’s voice” without asking why.
Would anyone suggest the above are valid rationales to allow a child erase a normal range healthy parent (and that parents side of the family) out of their lives forever.
There are good reasons why we do not allow children to drink alcohol, smoke, vote, join the Army and yet when it comes to the crucial area of familial relationships suddenly some professionals are supporting an angry child’s right to never see a normal range healthy parent ever again.
This brings me to another point, well meaning, well intentioned but un-informed practitioners may take a view a child’s rejection of a parent is a normal transient dynamic to be expected in divorce and separation. We must remember Parental Alienation without intervention lasts a lifetime resulting in pervasive psychological, emotional and physical harms for the child across their lifespan and of course these dynamics will likely repeat themselves if that child goes on to have children of their own.
I have in collaboration with the Institute of Family Therapy Malta created the first academically accredited post graduate program in Parental Alienation Studies. More information can be found here: https://parentalalienation.eu/post-graduate-award-in-parental-alienation-studies/ Last years Cohort included social, legal and mental health professionals from China, Russia, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, Iceland and Ireland. This demonstrates professionals across the globe take a view somewhat differently than Women’s Aid Ireland.
Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com