Parenting My Teen

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Parental Alienation Syndrome: What it is and How it Affects your Teen

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Parenting A Teen, Teen Emotional Health

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When parents separate, it is important for both the mother and the father to maintain a relationship with the children. Yet in many cases, children side with one parent or the other. Sometimes this is the child’s own choice, but all too often it occurs due to the influence of the favored parent.

This phenomenon is nothing new, but only recently did it receive a name. In the early 1980s, child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner coined the term “Parental alienation syndrome.” He defined it as a disorder in which a child belittles and insults one parent without good reason, due in part to influence from the other parent.

Parental alienation syndrome is not officially recognized by the medical or legal fields as a mental health issue. But there’s no denying that estrangement from one parent takes place in many separations and divorces. This can occur for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

* One parent wants the other parent out of his or her life completely. Turning the children against the former partner is a way to achieve that.

* The custodial parent wants money or property from the non-custodial parent and uses the children as bargaining tools.

* One parent is overly possessive or jealous, and wants the children all to him/herself.

* One parent believes that the other parent is unworthy of the children.

* One parent feels unable to compete with the other parent for the children’s affections, and retaliates by trying to keep the kids from seeing him or her.

* The offending parent is hostile toward the other parent and keeps the children away to hurt him or her.

Whatever the reason, the offending parent effectively turns the child or children against the other parent. He or she may withhold or limit visitation or reduce or eliminate contact between parent and child. He or she might make disparaging remarks about the other parent to or in the presence of the children, or even make false allegations of abuse. Whether it is directly stated or not, the offending parent might make the child feel that he must choose one or the other.

When subjected to this behavior, children often side with the alienating parent. They do this to gain approval from that parent, or because they believe the terrible picture that has been painted of the other parent. Yet they often assert that the decision to reject the other parent is their own, because they don’t want the offending parent to feel or appear guilty.

Parental alienation syndrome can be mild or severe, but in any event, it can have devastating effects on the child involved. He becomes trapped in the middle of a conflict between two of the most important people in his life. The relationship with both parents usually becomes strained, and he may lose contact with one of them. Unless abuse of some sort is a factor, it is generally in the child’s best interest to encourage a good relationship with both mother and father.

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10 Comments to “Parental Alienation Syndrome: What it is and How it Affects your Teen”

  1. Thanks for highlighting parental alienation on your site. This destructive family dynamic affects countless parents, children and extended family members every year.

    For more information and resources on this topic you can visit


    mike jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation
    .-= mike jeffries´s last blog ..Come on get happy… =-.

  2. As the years go on, no doubt it affects your teen. Soon our alientiened teens will be adults. How will affect them then???

  3. My soon to be xwife is alienating my 12yr old stepson who i raised since 4 months. I’m getting custody of 10yr biological son but love them both dearly, thank God for the custody evaluation..
    It’s amazing the effort she puts into it with the help of her father.
    The courts don’t recognize our relationship as i was never allowed to adopt.
    He is the one who is suffering. He seems changed and distant.
    It’s a sad situation.
    But i do whatever I can to see him if it’s only for a minute. And will never quit letting him know I’m his Dad and love him and always will be.
    Like a made for TV movie.
    I just wanted to divorce this mentally unstable woman. I never expected this.

  4. gracekelley says:

    My husband’s ex has been alienating the children from him since 2006, when she moved the child support enforcement to the state she lives in – and cut off all communications with my husband… as she prepared to be wed to a man with 4 illegitimate children.

    My husband was divorced 10 years before he brought the ex back to court for child support modification, and contempt of court for 8 consecutive years of missed tax exemptions – where she claimed both of the children instead of just the one ordered on the JPA. We’ve been in court for a year at this point with no resolutions, and it was after the first court date that the ex told both children about the court case – kids are 14 and 18 – and ever since, they have systematically cutoff communications with their dad, first on facebook, then sending nasty messages and emails that were very obviously forced by their mother… and now the kids won’t talk to their dad at all. They don’t want to know the truth; they want to be loyal to their mom – who they have lived with solely since 2006.

    It’s a shame the men don’t fight for the relationship more… they are so done with their ex, that instead of putting up the good court fight and putting the alienating parents in their legal place, they just brush it under the rug and pray that sometime, somewhere – those kids will ‘see the light’ and come around on their own, when they wish to know the truth. And if they don’t, oh well. I can’t blame my husband for taking this stand, as he’s done with years and years of game-playing, and having his ex use the kids as pawns for money. One has reached the age of majority, the other has 4 more years to go. My husband just pays his child support as he’s court ordered, but extends nothing else.

    The courts don’t recognize the alienation, the attorneys don’t want to even dabble with motions on alienation, and the court system seems to be geared toward the mother – regardless if she was the one who wanted the divorce, committed adultery several times over during the marriage, lied on all her court documents, or has no interest in the children except for the amount of money they draw in child support a month. It’s a very sad world we live in. Good article – I’m going to pass it along to his 18 year old, along with a book about PAS, as a graduation gift this June.

    • It sounds like you have both really struggled due to the problems that your husband’s ex has caused. It can’t be easy on you, the wife of the one who is dealing with that.
      My husband could sympathize with you as he is in the same position.
      The court systems are not geared toward the mother, at least not everywhere.
      It’s probably safe to say that Judges vary in their beliefs; most probably have an underling prejudice against one parent or the other- with some tending to side with the father and others tending to side with the father.
      I have dealt for years with my children’s father who has successfully alienated them from me. I have done and continue to do all that I know to do to maintain communication with them, and let them know that I am here, but nothing has changed.
      Their father put a lot of time, money and effort into the estrangement that now exists between them and me.
      I hope your situation improves it if has not already; mine is further complicated by the fact that I am the mother dealing with this. My ex-husband takes advantage of the fact that sometimes the father gets sympathy from a judge simply because he is the man, and it is a common belief that men are done wrong by the women in most cases. This as I have said is a myth.
      It works both ways.

  5. My ex-husband became increasingly extreme in his alienation of our teen daughter from me–keeping her from contact with me using false accusations of abuse to get custody with the help of his 5th wife. Our daughter is now hospitalized because of a suicide attempt a few days ago.
    Donna Hickman´s last blog post ..Hanging In vs. Hanging On

  6. Donna.. thank you so much for sharing and visiting here. I will be keeping you daughter in my thoughts and prayers!

  7. Thanks for bringing awareness to this horrific form of child abuse.

    Parental Alienation (PA) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) are very complex topics. It is important to keep in mind that alienation not only can occur by parents, but mental health experts, physicians, lawyers, teachers, grandparents, step-parentsand others can easily alienate, too.

    I strongly urge you to bookmark and regularly read this website

    Whether this is the first time you’ve heard the term PA or not, there’s plenty of information that will follow on a regular and consistent basis that will increase your knowledge and understanding of it.


    Dr. Kathleen M. Reay,

    Researcher, Clinician, Speaker, Litigation-Related PA/PAS Consultant and Author of Toxic Divorce: A Workbook for Alienated Parents
    Dr. Kathleen Reay´s last blog post ..Home

  8. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!


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