1 in 4 Children of Divorce Suffer Parental Alienation Syndrome

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November 3rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Psychology researchers Jose Canton Duarte, Rosario Cortes Arboleda, and Dolores Justicia Diaz from the University of Granada have written a book on the psychological problems caused by parental alienation during child custody conflicts entitled Conflictos entre los padres, divorcio y desarrollo de los hijos (English: Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children’s Development). In much of the United States and of course in countries south of the border, there are a large number of families going through difficult divorces who speak Spanish as their primary language. While there is a wealth of English-language information on the form of emotional child abuse known as parental alienation, the selection of such titles for Spanish-literate populations has been more limited. If you know of a Spanish-speaking family with intense conflict between divorced parents, this title might be helpful for their extended family to read to understand what is happening to the child who used to love them but who now avoids and even lies about them after being brainwashed by the parent who has primary custody.

1 out of 4 children involved in a divorce undergoes Parental Alienation Syndrome

In the 1980’s, PAS was defined by scientist Richard Gardner of Columbia University. Men are usually the target parent, since in most cases the mother has custody of the child.

According to Mª Rosario Cortés, “the so-called alienating parent is the one who has custody and uses it to brainwash the child, turning him or her against the alienated parent”. In most cases, the process is very subtle the custodial parent stating such things as “if I just told you some more things about your father/mother…”, or by making the child feel sorry for “abandoning” every time he or she visits the alienated parent.

As pointed out by the group of researchers of the University of Granada, there are many other factors which influence PAS apart from the unacceptable attitude of the custodial parent, such as children’s psychological vulnerability, the character and behaviour of parents, dynamics among brothers, or the existing conflicts between the two divorced parents. Very often children not only reject their father, but also his family and close friends. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and the new partner of the non-custodial parent are also affected by this syndrome, and children undergoing PAS can even “expel them from their life.”

Among other symptoms, Professor Cortés points out that children tend to find continual justifications for the alienating parent’s attitude. They denigrate the target parent, relate negative feelings unambivalently towards that parent, deny being influenced by anyone (pleading responsibility for their attitude), feel no guilt for denigrating the alienated parent, or recount events which were not experienced but rather came from listening to others.

The authors of Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children’s Development, state that PAS is more frequent among children aged 9 to 12 than among teenagers, and that there are no relevant gender differences in PAS.

Uno de cada cuatro hijos de padres en proceso de divorcio contencioso sufre el denominado ‘Síndrome de Alienación Parental’

El SAP fue definido en los años 80 por el científico Richard Gardner, de la Universidad de Columbia (EE UU), y el afectado suele ser con frecuencia el hombre (por la simple razón de que la custodia suele darse a la madre).

“El progenitor que llamamos ‘alienante’ se sirve de la custodia del hijo para realizarle un lavado de cerebro en toda regla, basado en el dogmatismo, poniéndole en contra del progenitor alienado”, explica Mª Rosario Cortés. En la mayoría de los casos, este proceso se produce de forma muy sutil, siendo frecuente que estos padres empleen frases del tipo “si yo te contara cosas de tu padre/madre…”, o hacen sentir culpables al menor por ‘abandonarles’ simplemente por cumplir el régimen de visitas.

Los investigadores granadinos señalan que, amén de esta intolerable actitud por parte del alienante, “en el Síndrome de Alienación Parental influyen otras muchas circunstancias, como la vulnerabilidad psicológica del niño, la conducta y la personalidad de ambos progenitores, las dinámicas fraternales o los conflictos entre ambos padres. Con frecuencia, suele ocurrir que el niño no sólo llegue a rechazar a su padre, sino también a toda la familia y al entorno de éste. Abuelos, tíos, primos y las nuevas parejas del alienado se ven también afectados por este síndrome, “llegando a ser prácticamente ‘’borrados del mapa’ por el niño que padece el SAP”.

Cortés señala que, entre los síntomas del SAP en el menor, destacan la justificación continuada y sistemática de la actitud del padre ‘alienante’, una campaña de denigración del progenitor ‘alienado’, la ausencia de ambivalencia en los sentimientos negativos hacia dicho progenitor, las afirmaciones de que nadie lo ha influenciado y que ha llegado solo a adoptar esta actitud, la ausencia de culpabilidad por la denigración del progenitor ‘alienado’ o contar hechos que manifiestamente no ha vivido él sino que ha escuchado a otros.

Los autores de “Conflictos matrimoniales, divorcio y desarrollo de los hijos” –libro que ya fue publicado en el año 2000, pero que próximamente será reeditado y actualizado con nuevos datos- señalan que el SAP es más frecuente entre los 9 y 12 años que en la adolescencia, y no existen diferencias significativas por sexos (“se da tanto en niños como en niñas”).

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Further Reading

The Gregory Mantell Show: Parental Alienation Syndrome

Richard Smulczewski Parental Alienation Case

Jayne Major: Common Questions About Parental Alienation

Kids’ Parental Alienation Book: “I Don’t Want to Choose!”

Loads of Info on Parental Alienation

Group of 50 Mental Health Experts Pushing to Add Parental Alienation to DSM

More articles mentioning parental alienation…

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