Parent24 is sharing a series of articles on the contentious topic of parental alienation. Here, local legal firm SD Law South Africa helps us unpack the difference between estrangement and parental alienation.
Parental alienation is a sad by-product of divorce or other breakdown between parents. It is, unfortunately, usually the result of deliberate sabotage by one parent against the other.
It is very rarely an organic response by the child, provided there is no physical or emotional abuse present.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Marilé Viljoen, "Parental alienation is a set of processes and behaviours conducted and enacted by a parent to deliberately and knowingly damage or sever the relationship between a child and another parent with whom the child enjoyed a prior loving relationship."
A child may express "disapproval and even hatred toward a parent they loved and respected before the separation or divorce".
Estrangement vs. parental alienation
It is important to differentiate between estrangement and alienation, SD Law South Africa explains.
Estrangement is sad and all too common but it does not arise from the same vindictive motives as parental alienation.
Estrangement refers to the breakdown of the relationship between a parent and child, which may come about because of the parent's:
- Inadequate treatment of the child
- Abuse or neglect of the child
- Poor parenting behaviour
- Low insight into parenting behaviour
- Inability to understand the child's world or to place themselves in the child's shoes
- The struggle to take responsibility for their own emotions and behaviour
Some of these factors can be blamed on the parent; some are unconscious behaviours.
None are driven by the other parent, as is the case with parental alienation.#NoOneWins: Everything you need to know about Parental AlienationChatback:Share your stories and questions with us via email at email@example.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.Don't miss a story!For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.