What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a form of domestic abuse, where one parent or main care-giver effectively takes ‘exclusive possession’ of the child and, through repetitive psychologically abusive and coercive controlling behaviours, systematically erodes the other parent from the child’s life.  


The process can ultimately sever a child’s innate biological attachment bond with a much loved parent. It is very similar to cult and grooming behaviour.


There is nothing – aside from death itself -which could be more brutal to safe mothers, fathers and wider family.

A picture is worth a thousand words

The destructive impact of parental alienation on a child’s impressionable mind can be evidenced not only by unnatural behaviours but also how they choose to express themselves through their drawings.


Before alienation, this nine-year-old enjoyed a close loving relationship with both of her parents. The secure attachment she had, was reflected in this happy child’s picture.

Drawn in March

Drawn 3 months later

This second picture was drawn only months after repeated alienating strategies were deployed, following the separation of her parents.


The disturbing image shows her wielding a sword and actually ‘decapitating’ her previously much-loved non-resident parent. Another showed this parent having their eyes pecked out by crows.


Clear signs of extreme emotional disturbance. Yet, in this case, despite ‘extreme harm’ being identified in psychologist reports, the court ruled she remained with the parent who created this pathology and ‘indirect contact’ for the safe protective parent.

It is a tragic and wholly avoidable picture.

Parental separation is the most prevalent adverse childhood experience (ACE). Each year in the UK, tens of thousands of families breakdown.


The latest 2020 report from the Children’s Commissioner finds that one in eight children have been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder. The separation of their parents is the most common adverse life event they identified.


In the turmoil of relationship breakdown, some parents’ own emotional state blinds them to their children’s needs. A parent’s need for validation or revenge overrides their focus on the ongoing healthy needs of their child for the continued love and care of both parents and the child’s wider family. 


The act of attempting to destroy a child’s innate attachment bond with one of their safe parents, causes the child immense psychological damage

In the confines of an alienating environment, the child is effectively a psychological hostage. They are unable to be their authentic free and beautiful self. They are unable to express their authentic love for their target parent.

Fear of abandonment by their alienating parent or other family member. Fear of their anger. Fear of their withdrawal of love. These children are unable to save themselves. They are only children. The continuous fear repeatedly activates a child’s sympathetic nervous system, which causes long-lasting trauma.


The attachment system which bonds a child to their parents, does not malfunction without cause. It is an evolutionary primal function which serves to keep children safe from predators. A child who experiences the sudden or cumulative disruption of a previously strong attachment with a parent and their wider family, suffers grievously.


There is no worse pathology in the attachment system than the complete severance of a parent-child bond. The attachment system is developing its patterns for love and bonding during childhood. This is the most damaging time attachment pathology can occur. It is the Achilles heel of mental health.


Gender ideology – despite some concerted and incredibly dishonest efforts to convince us otherwise – cannot change human biology. A child’s greatest fear is abandonment and loss of attachment. Any attempt to distort or destroy it, is psychologically abusive.


If we are to genuinely protect children and their victim parents from the repetitive psychological and coercive control which typifies this form of family violence, it is imperative we speak out RIGHT NOW and take urgent action to prevent it.

DSM-5 V995 refers to it as follows: "Non accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child's parent or care-giver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child"

Effects on children

Dr Amy Baker in her book – Breaking the Ties that Bind – studied the outcomes for 40 adults in the US who identified that they had been manipulated to reject one of their parents in childhood. She found that they experienced:


Low self-esteem. Stemming from the denigration of the targeted parent. When a parent bad-mouths someone who is half of the child’s identity, the child internalises this as criticism against themselves (65%).

Guilt. For having betrayed the targeted parent (% not documented).

Depression. For the irreplaceable time they lost with the targeted parent, extended family members and friends (28%).

Lack of trust. In themselves and others. When they realise that what they believed about the alienating parent was actually not the case. Therefore, they do not trust themselves to be good judges of other’s motives and character (40%).

Drug and alcohol problems. Adult children were drawn to substance abuse to escape the pain of their loss (35%).

Alienation from their own children. They subconsciously chose partners who were like their alienating parents and so brought about alienation in their own children (50%).

Divorce. Many said their marriages failed because of their lack of trust in their partner, their inability to be intimate and problems with depression and substance abuse (57.5%).


Children who are manipulated to cut off all ties with a parent, may experience:

  • Feelings of extreme pressure to reject a parent and extended family members whom they love.
  • Anxiety.
  • Guilt for rejecting their parent and treating them with hostility.
  • Psychological harm.
  • Those severely affected may adopt “splitting”. One parent is seen as all good, the other all bad. They are unable to manage the reality that there is good and bad in both. This has implications for all future relationships.
  • Sadness because, deep down, they want a relationship with their parent.
  • Suppressed and repressed memories of time spent with the rejected parent.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Agitation.
  • Inability to think critically or to describe their emotions. 
  • Lack of focus.
  • Loss of ability to play and learn.
  • A restriction on personal relationships with half of their family, identity and cultural background.
  • Strong anger for the once much-loved parent. When this is allowed to develop, it can spill over to other authority figures such as teachers or the police, leading to exclusion from school or a criminal record.

Legendary campaigner, Erin Pizzey, who set up the first refuge in the world for ‘battered women’ and their children in 1971,  led with her heart and soul, not vested interest, nor ideology. Listen to her talk about the impact of alienation on vulnerable children…

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