Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It, And Who Does It?

Parental Alienation Syndrome

In this regard, they have deficits in emotional resilience, or the ability to recover after feeling frustrated or disappointed. They may become at risk, therefore, for developing a victim self-image, blaming others for whatever goes wrong—which, in turn, may enable them to victimize others: “I’m a victim; therefore, I have a right to victimize you.”

Related: 19 Signs You Were Raised By a Narcissistic Mother or Father

Some elements of borderline disorders may become evident in the way that certain alienating parents twist reality. When these individuals are higher in borderline tendencies, they often offer exaggerated accusations against the other parent—accusations that may, in fact, be projections of their own negative attributes (calling the other parent “selfish,” for instance, when they themselves actually demonstrate more selfish behavior). 

Some alienating parents may also engage in another quintessential borderline pattern, a habit that therapists refer to as splitting. This occurs when the alienating parent enlists others to join their side in fighting against the supposedly “evil” other, splitting the family into us against them.

Individuals with borderline personality features may become mad when someone of import to them won’t give them what they want—e.g., a spouse who has decided to leave the marriage, perhaps because the alienating partner was not capable of forming a healthy, loving, and collaborative partnership. 

Their goal, then, becomes the destruction of the other parent’s relationship with the children. They may encourage their children to join them in this battle. They do all they can to deprive the other parent—their enemy—of the ability to continue being a parent.

Lastly, those who engage in severe alienation often also have habits similar to those present in antisocial personality disorder. That is, they lie and are good at it. They also carry out actions that harm others, including their child, without feeling guilt. 

What Drives Parental Alienation Behaviors?

Usually, the alienator’s motive is to “get back” at their spouse, who they may see as having hurt them by divorcing them—even if, in fact, the alienator was the one who initiated the divorce. Another motive can be jealousy, especially when the ex-spouse remarries.

Some alienators seek to extort money from their ex. If the child lives primarily with them, they may hope that the ex can be compelled to provide additional child support. Other alienators, and especially those who start alienating the child early on, during the marriage, may be motivated by the desire to have the child for themselves alone.

There’s no doubt other motives as well, but these seem to be the primary ones.

Related: 9 Tips For Co-Parenting With Your Difficult Ex

In Sum

If you’ve been feeling perpetually angry at your spouse or ex-spouse, anxious about your co-parenting relationship, or depressed about the situation, it may be time to take action—both for your sake and for your children’s. As a first step, learn where you can get more information about parental alienation.

Virtually no parent wants to sit passively, locked up in distress, while the other parent causes major psychological damage to their offspring. If you are struggling with a situation of parental alienation, change is possible. Go for it—starting today.

For further and more detailed information about parental alienation, written with a focus on what therapists need to know to recognize, diagnose, and treat alienation, please see this article.  In addition, please feel welcome to check out here the dozen or so additional articles on alienation have which I posted on this website, as well as key articles by others about the problem.

Lastly, check here for information about ways to manage the inevitable negative emotions triggered by alienation.

Susan Heitler, PhD author of Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More

For more resources on the topic of alienation, see

Written By Susan Heitler 
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today

Going through something like parental alienation syndrome is extremely tough, but if you want, you can change that situation. If you are struggling with this, and you want your child to not get psychologically affected by this toxic behavior, then take some steps today to change the situation.

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Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It, And Who Does It?
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Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Susan Heitler is a Denver clinical psychologist and widely-read author. Educated at Harvard and NYU, Susan Heitler offers self-help information for individuals and for couples. She also writes for therapists, offering new understandings and treatments for anxiety, anger, depression, narcissism, and relationship challenges. Dr. Heitler’s office also serves as a center for the evaluation and treatment of parental alienation. She and her husband of more than 45 years are proud parents of four happily married adult children and grateful grandparents of fifteen grandchildren.View Author posts