Parental Alienation: How Can It Affect A Child?

Year Published: 2017

The majority of parents manage through the turbulence of divorce to prioritise the emotional needs of their children by maintaining a civil manner and respect for one another, and allowing children permission to enjoy their time with the other parent. However, the court system remains challenged by cases of parental alienation and parents who are implacably hostile to their children maintaining a healthy relationship with their other parent.

In the recent case of Re B (change of residence; parental alienation) [2017] EWFC B24 the court determined that the child should spend the majority of her time with her father rather than her mother, on the basis this was more likely to result in her maintaining an ongoing relationship with both parents. During the case, the mother had raised numerous false reasons for limiting contact between the child and her father.

Whilst the courts are alert to the risks of emotional, as well as physical, harm, it is important that signs of parental alienation are picked up at an early stage.

How can parental alienation affect children?

A child subjected to prolonged and sustained negative input from one parent against the other can, over time, cloud their judgement and lead them to believe the more dominant parent. In more insidious cases the dominant parent may manipulate the child, offering subtle approval and emotional rewards for the child`s affiliation. There is a risk this adopted dialogue is then expressed by the child as representative of their own wishes and feelings.

What can you do to resolve these problems?

If you recognise this description of parental alienation, because you are suffering the fallout from it, or you fear you may be infecting your child with the negativity you feel towards your former partner, it is important to address the issue and attempt to resolve it.

Emotionally conflicted children struggle to thrive. A study by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) found unresolved conflict between parents could adversely impact a child’s development, mental wellbeing and ongoing life chances. Equally, an American study has shown that children who spend at least 35% of their time with each parent do better academically, socially and psychologically than those who do not.

Minimising the damage to children caused by parental separation has to be the priority of both parents.

For more information on how to resolve parental alienation matters, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676.

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