IS THIS THE RESULT OF “PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME?” It is important to know that the courts across the country have not adopted the idea that there is such a syndrome. A syndrome requires a generally accepted cause and effect, and there are many possible causes of children’s alienated behavior (abuse by a parent, alienating behavior by a parent, lack of emotional boundaries by a “rejected” parent, lack of emotional boundaries by a “favored” parent, developmental stage, outside influences, etc.). Also, despite alienating behavior by some parents, many children are not resistant to spending time with the other parent. So it is not accepted as a syndrome. However, the courts generally recognize that some children are alienated – they just don’t know the reason automatically and often want more information.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN ALIENATED CHILD? Children who are not abused, but are alienated have emotionally intense feelings but vague or minor reasons for them. A child might say: “I won’t go to see my father!” Yet she might struggle to find a reason: “He doesn’t help me with my homework.” Or: “He dresses sloppy.” Or: “He just makes me angry all the time.” Another child might say: “I hate my mother!” Yet again the reasons are vague or superficial: “She’s too controlling.” “She doesn’t understand me like my dad.” These children complain that they are afraid of the other parent, yet their behavior shows just the opposite – they feel confident in blaming or rejecting that parent without any fear or remorse. Some of them speak negatively of the “rejected” parent to others, then relax when they are with the “rejected” parent. Others run away, rather than spend time with the rejected parent. 

All of these behaviors are generally different from those of truly abused children, who are often extra careful not to offend an abusive parent, are often hesitant to disclose abuse and often recant even though it’s true.