Why Parental Alienation is the Act of an Emotionally Abusive Bully « A Shrink for Men

In parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on August 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

Why Parental Alienation is the Act of an Emotionally Abusive Bully

Justice is Blind-Family Court FolliesAre you and your ex going through a difficult divorce or break up? Do you worry that she or he is turning your child(ren) against you? Are you shocked and confused by how your once warm and affectionate relationship with your kid(s) has become distant and hostile?

Parental alienation is no joke. It’s a form of child abuse. The custodial parent is usually the mother and it’s typically the custodial parent who engages in parental alienation. However, there are men who also engage in parental alienation.

Original research found women to be the perpetrators of this abusive behavior in 90% of reported cases. Recent research indicates both genders equally engage in parental alienation. It’s difficult to know the exact figures because of under-reporting, false accusations, and the positive bias toward mothers that’s rampant in most family courts.

Profile of Parental Alienation

Individuals who engage in parental alienation are like the mean kids in high school who demand that their friends be angry with whomever they’re angry with and hate whomever they hate. In children, this phenomenon is called relational aggression. Now she or he is a parent. They’re mad because your relationship ended—even if they’re the one who initiated the break-up.

Your ex requires, implicitly or explicitly, that your child(ren) feel and act the same way she or he does. The parent who engages in alienation tactics enlists your children to take on his or her battle against you. This is not the act of a responsible, mature adult, much less a responsible, loving parent. This is a bullying behavior called mobbing.

Bullying, Mobbing and Parental Alienation

Mobbing is usually written about in the context of workplace bullying, but that’s a limited use of the concept. It can occur in any kind of system, including a family system. Mobbing is the impassioned psychological harassment of one individual by a group. The attack is usually instigated and led by one or two people who are typically in a position of authority or a peer leader. The International Herald Tribune describes it as “group victimization of a single target” with the goal of demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, and isolating the targeted individual.

Mobbing ringleaders are bullies who try to dominate and control others in most situations and relationships. Namie and Namie (2000) describe them as, “inadequate, defective, and poorly developed people.” They’re generally angry, unpredictable, critical, jealous, and manipulative (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999; Namie and Namie, 2000). The emotionally abusive bully who engages in mobbing (or parental alienation) revels in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.” Sound familiar?

Parental Alienation and Personality Disorders

People that have no compunction about using their kids to hurt their exes seem to fit the profile of the emotionally abusive Cluster B personality disorders (Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder). These individuals play the professional victim as they emotionally bully anyone who confronts, challenges, or criticizes them. They don’t recognize appropriate boundaries, won’t accept personal responsibility for their actions—in fact, they blame you for the horrible things they do and always have an excuse to justify their indefensible behaviors.

If your ex is actively or passively alienating your child(ren)’s normal affection toward you, he or she was probably emotionally abusive while you were together. Parental alienation is her or his way of continuing to abuse and hurt you via remote access. Generally, most bullies don’t see themselves as such. If you confront your ex about this behavior, they’ll deny it and blame you for your deteriorating relationship with your child(ren), even as you make every effort to be a present and involved parent.

The only way to stop a bully is with the threat of a greater authority. Appealing to their “better nature” is futile. Emotionally abusive bullies don’t have a better nature. Attorneys and the courts will probably need to be involved as well as an UNBIASED children’s therapist and a lot of documentation. If you believe you’re the target of parental alienation, I encourage you to educate yourself about it and to know, protect and fight for your rights.

Note from the author: Two weeks ago, I was contacted by the gentleman who runs WashingtonSharedParenting.com and USSharedParenting.com. He invited me to be a guest blogger on these two sites because he values the information I offer on A Shrink for Men.

Writing about parental alienation isn’t a topic I planned to cover when I began this blog. However, I considered his kind invitation and realized that  parental alienation is another aspect of the emotionally abusive bully’s repertoire of behaviors and accepted his offer to guest blog. This post will appear on WashingtonSharedParenting as well.

California Men’s Centers has also linked to my blog and Washington DV Press reposted one of my blogs to their site. I’m grateful and honored that they find my writing helpful to the populations they serve.

Photo credit:

Justice is blind by Professional Recreationalist on flickr3

  1. This E mail was also sent to members and affiliates of the Justice for Children (JFC), yes the ones who patently reject PAS, are sexist, and which fails to perceive truth where it exists.

    I dedicate this e–mail to the memory of the wonderfully healthy relationship my daughter and I had together—-my daughter soon to be 23 years of age and who, as yet, still cannot break through the evil imposed upon her mother and by JFC, two bullies. Yes, the Wicked Witch of the East does exist, and so does the Wizard, who basically was a fraud and all smoke and mirrors. Fitting that JFC should have used the theme of the Wizard of Oz for its recent fundraiser event, as the story of the Wizard of Oz conveys the inner feelings of perplexity of JFC and its membership, e.g. inner pomposity and grandiosity (addictive symptomology) encountering truth, e .g. looking for home, a brain, a heart, and for courage, while being a fraud.

    On one level Oz is the story of the interference of fear to having oneself available to oneself, as Dorothy was told by the Good Witch of the North after she jumped out of the Wizard’s departing balloon to retrieve Toto: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. If it’s not there, then I never really lost it to begin with.” Too bad JFC has such a difficult time with the message.

    MKG writes a excellent blog (I recommend frequent visits to it) ( MKG4583.wordpress.com ) and this is from a guest writer: “shrink4men” . The following makes an excellent point that the acts of an alienator are very similar to that of a bully.

    Anyone for some *euphoria*?

    May I recommend the life changing book (for me) When Society Becomes An Addict, Anne Wilson Schaef, Harper and Row, 1986.

    And books by John Bradshaw on Shame.

    Robert Gartner


  2. 2. Thank you for this Article. Fathers’ right to be a meaningful part of their childrens’ lives, have been eroded to the point of non-existence. My research suggests that this is a phenomenon consistent throughout the industrialized nations. Children who are alienated from their fathers are more likely later in life to have emotional/behavioral problems, suffer from depression, drop out of school, fail in their jobs, and suffer from other social problems. I invite you to visit my site devoted to raising awareness on this growing problem: http://fathersprivilege.blogspot.com/

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