Why You Should Be Concerned About Parental Alienation

April 25th is Parental Alienation Awareness Day

By April 18, 2024

If you’re a parent involved in a custody or visitation dispute and you think the other parent might be cutting you out of your child’s life, you should consider the possible effects of Parental Alienation on your children. Scientific research explains that PA can have profound and long-lasting effects. 


  • Blaming the other parent for breaking up the family
  • Blaming the other parent for whatever problem or problems may beset the alienating parent


  • Using the children to spy on or gather dirt on the targeted parent
  • Questioning a child about the details of the other parent’s personal life
  • Eavesdropping on phone conversations between the child and the targeted parent

Interfering with Visitation

  • Giving a child a choice as to whether to visit the targeted parent (often in violation of a court order)
  • Being inflexible to reasonable changes in the visitation schedule 
  • Scheduling activities that conflict with visitation
  • Creating temptations designed to make visitation less appealing

Miscellaneous Signs

  • Refusing access to a child’s medical or school records
  • Not allowing a child to transport his or her things between residences
  • Acting hurt or sad if a child enjoys his or her time with the other parent

After reviewing 700 cases of family counseling, mediation, and forensic evaluation, Stanley Clawar and Brynne Rivlin (1991) published their research through the American Bar Association. They described the parental conduct they observed as brainwashing and titled their work Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. In their 2013 follow-up of more than a thousand cases again published by the ABA, Clawar and Rivlin (2013) provided an updated list of the most common potential effects of the brainwashing they observed in children:

  • Loneliness
  • Conflict with Parents
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance Abuse
  • Speech Problems
  • Sexual Promiscuity
  • Poor Body Image
  • Poor Eating Habits
  • Eating Disorders
  • Weight Loss/Weight Gain
  • Disheveled Living Space
  • Poor Executive Function (Disorganization)
  • Diminished Activity
  • Psycho-Somatic Distortions
  • Feelings of Isolation
  • Increased Use of Technology as an Escape
  • Lack of Friends
  • Sibling Conflict (Including Violence)
  • Heightened Fantasy Life
  • Diminished Attention Span
  • Social Identity Problem
  • Regressive Behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Conflicts in Peer Relationships
  • School Dysfunction
  • Memory Loss

Canadian researchers Barbara Jo Fidler a psychologist and Nicholas Bala, a professor of law (2010) reported on clinical observations, case reviews, and qualitative as well as empirical studies. Publishing their findings in Family Court Review, they wrote that alienated children may exhibit:

  • Poor reality testing
  • Illogical cognitive operations
  • Simplistic and rigid information processing
  • Inaccurate or distorted interpersonal perceptions
  • Disturbed and compromised interpersonal functioning
  • Self-hatred
  • Low self-esteem or inflated self-esteem or omnipotence
  • Pseudo-maturity
  • Gender-identity problems
  • Poor differentiation of self (enmeshment)
  • Aggression and conduct disorders
  • Disregard for social norms and authority
  • Poor impulse control
  • Emotional constriction, passivity, or dependency
  • Lack of remorse or guilt

PA isn’t limited to custody litigation, either. Parental Alienation can become problematic long after the dust has settled and visitation orders have been put in place. Parental Alienation can involve more than one alienator, and more than one child, and can be a multi-generational phenomenon. Besides the possibility of losing your children emotionally, Alienators often resort to false accusations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or both.