Parental alienation occurs when one parent speaks poorly or critically of the other parent in front of a child in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent. This is a sign of the badmouthing parent’s emotional inability to separate the couple conflict and his/her own emotional needs from the needs of the child.
The effects of this bad behavior vary, depending upon the child and the severity of the emotional dysfunction of the badmouthing parent. If the badmouthing is constant, the child may become brainwashed to reject the other parent. Or, the child may start to internalize the negativity of the badmouthing parent, who constantly says things like "your Mom is crazy" or "your Dad is an idiot". Because the child knows he comes from both Mom and Dad, he may begin to "own" the incorrect label, i.e. because his "Dad is an idiot", he may think that he (the child) might be an idiot too. After all, he is part his Mom and part his Dad. The child may also think, given his or her emotional inability to correctly process and cope with this negativity, that the conflict between the parents is somehow his fault.
Clearly, badmouthing the other parent (parental alienation) is extremely harmful for the children involved. Some of the most severe effects of parental alienation on children include low self-esteem, depression, and even substance abuse, because the children lose the emotional capacity, in all of the brainwashing and confusion, to give and accept love from a parent.
Parental alienation is difficult for courts to police, because it routinely happens behind closed doors at home where only the badmouthing parent and the child are witnesses to the statements. Most often, the evidence of parental alienation is not the child recounting the other parent's behavior. Instead, the child begins to act differently or negatively around the victim parent. For more information regarding divorce, custody and family law, contact Gertz Law Firm at 513-583-1549.