Extreme alignment is not parental alienation! Time and time again I see these terms confused with each other in family reports and in discussions with my clients.
#FamilyLaw professionals, #consultants and #practitioners can be reluctant to assess Parental Alienation and would rather address the issue through a more benign lens of #alignment. Yet it is critical that we get the #assessment process right lest the very processes and services that are supposed to protect children end up abusing them by causing them to lose a loving parent from their lives, and forcing them to remain in relationship and proximity with an #abusiveparent.
Let us be very clear about parent-child affiliation, as Kelly and Johnson have been in 2001 and I am now. Children can align with one parent against the other for reasons that are more to do with their reaction to, and defence against their emotional pain in relation to complex, hostile and highly conflictual family separation. This is not Parental Alienation.
So let us start by making some distinctions.
#AFFILIATION is the most benign in which a child is naturally relating with both parents.
A child may #ALIGN with one parent against the other whilst having ambivalent relationships with both of them. This can occur within a context of a family setting even without any complex or excessively hostile separations. Such #alignments can be extreme. However this does not make it parental alienation – unless one parent, the aligned parent exploits the situation.
A child may be #ESTRANGED from one parent in the context of an abusive environment. They may have witnessed or have been involved with one of their parents (or both) abusing the other parent (or each other). Indeed they may have been physically, emotionally or #sexuallyabused by one of their parents.
#PARENTALALIENATION falls into the special category of #emotionalchildabuse. This means there must be one parent who is waging a campaign with the intention of rupturing the relationship between the children and the other parent.
We have to be very clear here. For alienation to be assessed, we have to have both an #ALIENATEDCHILD AND an #ALIENATINGPARENT. We need to have a child who is harshly and unreasonably rejecting a formerly loved parent and we need to have an alienating parent who is actively and passively supporting, encouraging and enabling the child to do so.
We need to get better at making distinctions, assessments and recommendations. The first step is to be clear about the distinctions between affiliation, alignment, estrangement and alienation. Confusing one with the other particularly alignment, estrangement and alienation risks creating blind spots about #childabuse. It is at least an equally worse form of abuse for a child to lose from their lives a loving parent because an assessment has failed to detect parental alienation and therefore failed to make the necessary recommendations.
Perhaps it is even worse because this omission is a failure of the processes and services designed to protect children and this becomes entrenched as state sanctioned child abuse.