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Parental Alienation Syndrome in Court Referred Custody Cases - Part III

Updated: Apr 27

Continuation from Part II...

Internal Processes Involved in Alienating

The below definitions and examples may help you to understand the alienating parent's internal process.

Reaction Formation

Reaction formation is an unconscious process whereby an individual controls what she or he believes to be acceptable or impulses by establishing behaviour pattern, which are directly opposed to the unacceptable feelings, or impulses. Even though the original impulse is repressed, it is believed to continue to exist unconsciously in its original form and is thus, "likely to emerge under some circumstances". (Reber, 1995). An alienating parent may cover his or hers feelings about the other parent and use anger as the mechanism to cover up affection.

It is very important to understand that many alienating parents may not be loving towards the child, but rather may ostensibly campaign against the other parent in their so - called attempt to "protect the child from harm by the alienated parent". (Gardner, 1992).

A healthy parent, a parent who truly loves his/her child, appreciates the of noncustodial parent in the life of their child and, with the exception of genuinely abusing parent, facilitate meaningful contact between the child and their former spouse. Parental is a manifestation of PAS and is not in the child's best interests. The alienating parent apparent obsessive love of their child may often be an attempt to cover up their underlying hostility. (Lund, J., Sullivan, M., 1996).


The mechanism of projection is often operative for many of the alienating parents, the moderate and severe category. Projection is an unconscious process by which a person'e own traits, emotions, or dispositions are ascribed to another. Frequently, there is denial that these feelings or tendencies exist. Projection function as a mechanism to protect the alienating parent from the underlying conflict and that have been repressed. (Reber, 1995)

The alienating parent to the other parent tendencies and practices, which are unlikely, if not impossible, and are products of their own imaginations. The alienating parent can the consider him or herself free of odious behaviour (Gardner, 1992, 1998).

For example, an alienating parent attributes inappropriate touching of a child to the alienated parent. The child can come to believe this distortion of reality and fear the alienated parent.

Mental health professionals believe the alienating parent may be able to correct the distorted thinking by logic and confrontation with reality!

However, if this does not occur and the belief becomes fixed and in spite of confrontation, "then the term paranoid is well warranted". (Gardner, 1992, p.126).

Many accusations are conscious and deliberate; however, in other cases subconscious and unconscious factors are operative, especially projection. This is primarily observed in PAS, sever type. For example, an alienating parent's own and repressed sexual fantasies are projected onto the child and the other parent.

There may be accusations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and / or domestic violence without evidence!


Anger is used to describe the alienating parent's behaviour toward the alienated parent. The anger fuels the campaign of denigration and the desire to withhold the child from the alienated parent as a vengeance maneuver. Anger in alienating parents is also exhibited by finding a wide variety of excuses to interfere with or circumvent visitation with the alienated parent. Psychodynamically, angry or raging parents may feel abandoned by the other parent. In their rage and anger they pull the child toward them in an attempt to not feel abandoned by the child, and they begin a campaign of depreciation against the child's . The anger fuels this campaign for years until appropriate intervention by the courts and mental health professionals is in place.

Programming the Child

Programming is defined as a parent who denigrates and criticises the alienated parent overtly and covertly.

For example:

" I cant afford to send you to private school anymore because your father left us and wont pay child support." These kinds of statements are frequently said in a variety of ways and situations, but the message is always the same: "Your father did this to us."

This is but one example of many different kinds of statements made repeatedly to program a child.

Allegations of Sexual Abuse or Physical Abuse

Allegations of sex abuse or physical abuse frequently occur often resulting in long period without contact between the child and the alienated parent. An investigation must take a place and the parent is typically on supervised visitation pending the outcome of the investigation.

For example:

A child may state to the mental health professional, "My Daddy touched my privates."

During the investigation, authorities and other professionals found this child had no idea what her / his "privates" meant; she was two and -half years old. However, a four-year old boy stated over and over his father put his 'fingers in his bottom and rolled him in a sheet."

In both cases, the alleged abuse was not substantiated.

However, the alienating parent's distorted belief that the abuse occurred was not altered; and the allegations and discussions continued until the children were removed from the alienating parent's custody.

Compliance with Court Order

Generally speaking, mild alienating parents will not only comply with court orders, they will follow the court orders. However, moderately alienating parents will often comply with a court order only if there is a threat of contempt or modification of a current parenting schedule.

Sever alienating parents will not comply with court orders, or even the threat of modification of custody, including a reversal of custody or the threat of contempt.

For example:

A mother of two preadolescent daughters had refused to transfer the minors for even supervised visitation with the Father. The minors' resistance to visitation with the father . A reversal of custody to father was ordered by the court. The minors resided with father with court order supervised visitation with their mother. The mother stopped contact with the minors altogether.

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