Across the country, there is growing concern over the level to which a divorced or unmarried parent can impact his or her child’s view of the other parent. Despite mountains of research and constant encouragement toward cooperative parenting, the unfortunate reality is that many parents allow their own personal feelings toward their former partners to impact their children’s ability to maintain healthy relationships with them. Such negative influence is known as parental alienation and was the center of a recently published study that looked to understand how families are impacted by it and how it may be seriously addressed.
“Sweeping it Under the Rug”
Researchers Jennifer Jill Harman and Zeynep Biringen, both professors at Colorado State University, said they have been receiving messages and information from parents and families long before their parental alienation study actually began. After speaking with many affected parents, the two realized that there was a lack of scholarly research on the topic, and hoped that conducting a study would bring awareness to the problem.
What they found was that parental alienation has become a major issue for millions of families, despite the lack of widespread attention. To that end, the researchers suggested similarities to the domestic violence concerns from not all that long ago, when it was considered a private matter. Regarding parental alienation, Biringen said, “There’s a lot of just sweeping it under the rug thinking about this, but in fact, it affects millions of people.” Somewhat surprisingly, the team also found that parental alienation is not just a concern after separation or divorce; it also is a problem for many otherwise intact families.
Are Moms More Guilty?
The biggest difference between parental alienation and its cousin known as estrangement, is that with an estranged parent, there is typically a justified reason for the fractured relationship. There may have been a fight, incidents of abuse, or something similar, but the resulting damage is somewhat understandable. With parental alienation, however, the breakdown in the relationship between the child and the parent is encouraged, if not directly caused, by exaggeration, half-truths, and misinformation from the other parent. Despite the common use of the term “parental alienation,” alienation can also affect relationships with grandparents and step parents.
The research also showed that, strictly by the estimated numbers, women are more likely to alienate. The most likely explanation, though is that parental alienation is often fueled by the parent who spends the larger amount of the time with the child. In most cases, the mother retains primary custody—or under the terminology of the new statute in Illinois, she is granted the majority of the parenting time—so it would stand to reason that mothers have more of an opportunity to have such an impact.
Let Us Help
If parental alienation has become an issue in your parenting situation, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney. We can assist you in protecting your parental rights while keeping your child’s best interest as our top priority. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation to discuss your available legal options.