Divorce and separation can breed bad blood between parents and children when one partner uses the children to target the other partner.
Among the many areas of concern for social workers working with divorced or separated couples with children are two related problems: parental alienation, or the efforts on the part of one parent to turn a child against the other parent, and parental alienation syndrome, or a child’s unwarranted rejection of one parent in response to the attitudes and actions of the other parent.
While some social workers may be unaware of the name for this particular phenomenon, they have probably dealt with it over the course of their careers. For example, clients may enter individual therapy presenting with anxiety, depression, or relationship problems and later reveal that they have been cut off from one parent by another parent. These clients may be unaware of the meaning of the lost relationship and may even minimize its effect on their growth, development, and current mental health concerns.
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who come to hate, fear, and reject the targeted parent as someone unworthy of having a relationship with them.