Parental alienation

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Parental alienation in the AIFS library catalogue

The not-forgotten child : alienated adult children's experience of parental alienation.

Bentley C and Matthewson M
American Journal of Family Therapy 26 Jun 2020: Advance online publication
This article explores the experience of adults who had experienced parental alienation during childhood and highlights the life long negative impacts. Interviews were held with 10 adults about their experience of parental alienation and abuse, the impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, and the impacts in adulthood on relationships, education, and careers.

Targeted parents surviving parental alienation : consequences of the alienation and coping strategies.

Lee-Maturana S, Matthewson M and Dwan C
Journal of Child and Family Studies 18 May 2020: Advance online publication
This article explores parents experiences of being alienated from their children and the coping strategies they employ. Interviews were conducted with 54 parents revealed common impacts across their broader lives including wellbeing, health and work - nearly a quarter of participants also reported having attempted suicide. The implications for practitioners working with these parents are also discussed.

Understanding and managing parental alienation : a guide to assessment and intervention.

Haines J, Matthewson M and Turnbull M
Abingdon, UK : Routledge, 2020.
Aimed at mental health professionals, this book provides a guide on the nature of parental alienation and when to intervene. It discusses the processes of parental alienation, association with mental illness or family violence, its impact on family members, assessment of alienating and targeted parents and their children, legal issues including parenting dispute evaluations, family therapy and individual therapy, and a decision-making process for identifying parental alienation.

A history of the use of the concept of parental alienation in the Australian family law system : contradictions, collisions and their consequences.

Rathus Z
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law v. 42 no. 1 2020: 5-17
This article looks into the concept of parental alienation in family law in Australia over the last 30 years. It charts the history of parental alienation and describes key legislation, research and reform, including law reforms to promote shared parenting and address domestic and family violence. The article highlights the issues involved when a family law system tries to balance shared parenting and family violence concerns.

Parental alienation, coaching and the best interests of the child : allegations of child sexual abuse in the Family Court of Australia.

Death J, Ferguson C and Burgess K
Child Abuse and Neglect v. 94 Aug 2019: Article 104045
This article investigates whether claims of parental alienation syndrome are being used in Australia as a counter to allegations of child sexual abuse in family court cases. It reviews 357 court judgements from between 2010 and 2015 to explore themes of parental alienation, parent coaching, mothers as manipulative, mothers as mentally ill, and the best interest of the child.

Characteristics and experiences of targeted parents of parental alienation from their own perspective : a systematic literature review.

Maturana S, Matthewson M, Dwan C and Norris K
Australian Journal of Psychology v. 71 no. 2 Jun 2019: 83-91
This article reviews the international literature on the characteristics and experiences of parents subject to parental alienation. Only nine articles were identified, highlighting the need for further research on this population.

Parental Alienation Syndrome : is it valid?

Teoh J, Chng G and Chu C
Singapore Academy of Law Journal v. 30 Special issue on family law 2018: 727-755
Parental alienation syndrome is a controversial theory which is increasingly raised in child custody battles before family courts in Singapore and overseas. This article investigates whether the concept has a good scientific and diagnostic basis and whether it should be admissible in legal settings. It describes the history and definition of parental alienation syndrome and criticisms, then considers its mention in cases from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It concludes that parental alienation syndrome is a simplistic and biased theory, and may result in a failure to investigate allegations of abuse or alienation. A child-centric approach must always be taken.

Review of research and case law on parental alienation

Doughty J, Maxwell N and Slater T
Cardiff : Welsh Government, 2018.
"This review of research and case law on the topic of parental alienation aims to provide an evidence base to guide practice for Cafcass Cymru. The notion of parental alienation was first recognised by Wallerstein and Kelly in 1976, but it was Gardner's assertion in 1987 that parental alienation was a syndrome, that is, a mental condition suffered by children who had been alienated by their mothers, which has led to debate over the last 30 years ... This report begins with setting out the relevant law [in Wales] and the context of the review, followed by a description of the methods used. The research literature is then presented, followed by a case law review. The report ends with some discussion, conclusions and key messages for practice."--Introduction.

The forgotten parent : the targeted parent perspective of parental alienation.

Poustie C, Matthewson M and Balmer S
Journal of Family Issues v. 39 no. 12 2018: 3298-3323
Much of the research on the lived experience of targeted parents in parental alienation cases has originated from sources other than the targeted parent themselves. This article adds to the evidence base with an exploratory study of the experiences of 126 male and female parents from Australia and overseas. The participants raised 6 common themes, relating to tactics used by the alienating parent, geographical distance, 'the System', mental health, family violence and child abuse, and coping and support. Future directions for research are also considered.

Parental alienation : targeted parent perspective.

Balmer S, Matthewson M and Haines J
Australian Journal of Psychology v. 70 no. 1 Mar 2018: 91-99
This article explores the characteristics and common experiences of parents subject to parental alienation. An online survey was conducted with 225 'targeted parents', with findings regarding parent gender, child age, presence and severity of exposure to parental alienation, and perceived threat.

Protection from child emotional abuse in family law parenting matters over two regimes of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth): policy, legislation and judicial reasoning

Brown A
This thesis examines whether family law in Australia provides protection for emotionally abused children. It reviews the 1975 Family Law Act in the context of two recent major legislative frameworks: the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 and the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011. The thesis also evaluates how closely Australian family law's conceptualisation of emotional abuse reflects the understanding of emotional abuse in social science literature. The study finds that each of the law reforms provided a legislative framework which enabled the Family Court to assess the need to protect emotionally abused children and make appropriate orders. However, it also found that the extent to which each regime's legislative framework enabled judicial officers to protect children was affected by the policy underpinning the amendments and how (and whether) the legislature recognised and addressed the issue of emotional abuse in the section 4 definition of abuse and the section 60CC best interests considerations.

Recommendations for best practice in response to parental alienation : findings from a systematic review.

Templer K, Matthewson M, Haines J and Cox G
Journal of Family Therapy v. 39 no. 1 Feb 2017: 103-122
Parental alienation can be a central issue in child custody disputes, whereby one parent attempts to eradicate the relationship between the child and the other parent without reasonable justification. There is a need for both psychological and legal intervention, but the evidence on current interventions is unclear. This article provides a systematic review of the literature to determine best practice responses. The review identified ten studies concerning therapeutic or legal interventions, published between 1990 and 2015. The article describes the studies and makes recommendations about effective intervention strategies, the therapeutic skills needed to achieve efficacious outcomes, and how mental health professionals can assist courts in their decision-making processes.

The challenge of high-conflict family cases involving a child protection agency: a review of literature and an analysis of reported Ontario cases

Houston C and Bala N
Toronto, ON : Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, 2015.
Child protection agencies on Ontario and around the world are increasingly becoming involved in high conflict custody and access cases, placing children at risk of harm. This report provides insights the nature of such cases in Ontario and how they are managed, with an analysis of 210 reported cases, from 2010-2014, involving custody and access disputes where a report was made to a child protection agency. It looks at the characteristics of the cases, unrepresented litigants, nature of violence or harm, parental alienation, involvement of other 'helping' professions, participation of children, and justice system and child protection outcomes. The limited research available on domestic family law cases that intersect with the child protection system is also discussed. Key findings include: mothers and fathers are about equally likely to make a report to a child protection agency in the context of a parental separation; custody and access cases intersecting with the child protection system are also likely to intersect with the criminal justice system; and child protection professionals may not be verifying the presence or risk of emotional harm due to parental conflict in all cases where such a finding is warranted.

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 7th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2015. 9781925091281: 279-316
Written for lawyers, counsellors, finance industry professionals, and students, this reference guide explains legislation, relevant case law, and legal procedures in Australian family law. This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, mental health issues, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Child custody evaluation : new theoretical applications and research

Hynan D
Springfield, Ill. : Charles C. Thomas, c2014.
"Each year [in the United States], over one and a half million children experience the divorce of their parents. The goal of this book is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge regarding children of divorce, especially the practice of evaluation as it pertains to child custody. The reality of custody evaluation work invokes a plethora of specific circumstances regarding each family that must be taken into consideration. To work towards this goal, the author integrates scientific findings, relevant theory, and professional experience in a manner that is conceptually sound and useful in practice. Each chapter begins with a Practice Checklist to emphasize what is needed to engage in careful deliberation. Major topics include: applications of game theory to child custody; uncertainty in judgment from Nobel Prize-winning research; time sharing; collecting information from parents and collaterals; observing parental interaction with children; parental alienation; research on strategic behavior in divorce disputes; and gatekeeping. In addition, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, relocation, report writing, ethics, guidelines, risk management, and practice improvement are discussed. This book also contains important new research on the PAI, PCRI, and MMPI-2 specific to child custody evaluation."

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 6th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2013. 9781922042996: 277-312
This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, mental health issues, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Children who resist postseparation parental contact : a differential approach for legal and mental health professionals

Fidler B, Bala N and Saini M
New York : Oxford University Press, c2013.
"[This book is an] empirically based review of parental alienation that integrates the best research evidence with clinical insight from interviews with leading scholars and practitioners. The authors - Fidler, Bala, and Saini - a psychologist, a lawyer and a social worker, are an multidisciplinary team who draw upon the growing body of mental health and legal literature to summarize the historical development and controversies surrounding the concept of "alienation" and explain the causes, dynamics, and differentiation of various types of parent-child relationship issues. The authors review research on prevalence, risk factors, indicators, assessment, and measurement to form a conceptual integration of multiple factors relevant to the etiology and maintenance of the problem of strained parent-child relationships. A differential approach to assessment and intervention is provided. Children's rights, the role of their wishes and preferences in legal proceedings, and the short- and long-term impact of parental alienation are also discussed. Considering legal, clinical, prevention, and intervention strategies, and concluding with recommendations for practice, research, and policy, this book is a much-needed resource for mental health professionals, judges, family lawyers, child protection workers, mediators, and others who work with families dealing with divorce, separation, and child custody issues."

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 5th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2012. 9781921593772: 277-311
This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Parental alienation, contact problems and the Family Justice System.

Bala N
20 February 2012
Although in high conflict separations some children maintain good relationships with both parents, many children become resistant to contact with one parent. Cases with contact problems pose great challenges for courts and other family justice professionals, in terms of ascertaining facts, understanding complex dynamics and making decisions about how to intervene in managing parent-child relationships. In some cases the child's rejection of a parent is justified by abuse, poor parenting or tensions within a stepfamily (estrangement). Alienation occurs if one parent undermines the child's relationship with the other parent, resulting in the child's rejection of that parent based not on the child's own experiences with the rejected parent but rather reflecting the attitude of the alienating parent. This presentation will include an analysis of reported Australian decisions on parental alienation (n=74). The decisions and the range of responses reflect the complexity and variability of these cases, as well as the challenges of finding effective interventions. While there are various sanctions and responses available, in more severe cases, often the most effective response to alienation is a clear message that residence may be reversed; in appropriate cases the best interests of the child requires a reversal of residence arrangements, even if contrary to the wishes of the child. While Australia has more publicly funded services than most jurisdictions, there is a need for better Court directed mental health interventions to allow for better responses to the highest conflict cases with contact problems. There needs to be early identification and assessment of high conflict cases, and case management of these most challenging cases by the most experienced family law judges.

When a child rejects a parent : why children resist contact.

Altobelli T
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 25 no. 3 Nov 2011: 185-209
This article will highlight the disconcerting complexity that often lies beneath the surface of cases where a child rejects a parent, or resists contact with that parent. There are a range of possible explanations which will not only assist to understand what the problem is but what is the best response by the judiciary, lawyers and mental health and social science experts.

Domestic violence, abuse, and child custody : legal strategies and policy issues

Hannah M and Goldstein B
Kingston, NJ : Civic Research Institute, c2010.

In the name of the child : a developmental approach to understanding and helping children of conflicted and violent divorce

Johnston J, Roseby V and Kuehnle K
New York : Springer, 2009.
"The [book] examines both the immediate and long-term effects of high-conflict divorce on children. By combining three decades of research with clinical experience, the authors trace the developmental problems affecting very young children through adolescence and adulthood, paying special attention to the impact of family violence and the dynamics of parental alienation. The authors present clinical interventions that have proven to be most effective in their own clinical work with families. With a new emphasis on the need for prevention and early intervention, this edition examines how defensive strategies and symptoms of distress in children can consolidate into immutable, long-standing psychopathology in their adult lives. This book contains the policies and procedures that can preempt these high-conflict outcomes in divorcing families. "

Child and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 3rd ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2009. 9781921593239: 265-292
This chapter looks at issues that may arise in children's matters at all levels of problem solving and dispute resolution, including child abuse, domestic violence, false allegations, parental alienation syndrome, drug use, presceription drugs, mental illness, gambling, special needs of children and theories relating to bonding and attachment, overnight stays and parenting arrangements. The chapter must be read in combination with other chapters in Part B of this book on children.

Outcomes of applications to court for contact orders after parental separation or divorce

Hunt J and Macleod A
London : Family Law and Justice Division, Ministry of Justice, 2008.
This report examines the outcomes of applications to court for contact orders after parental separation or divorce in Great Britain. The study draws largely upon 300 court files on cases where an application for a contact order was made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This Act is used in cases where parents cannot agree on contact - normally parents are free to determine their own arrangements, and there is no statutory presumption that there should be contact. However, public policy and case law strongly promotes the maintenance of children's relationships with both of their parents. This study investigates several aspects: the outcome of cases, in particular the duration, frequency and mode of contact; the relationship between parent expectations and case outcome; the process through which outcomes were reached, such as adjudication or concilation; and the circumstances, reasons and explanations behind the cases, including arguments and evidence presented, legal recommendations, and court judgements. Reasons presented include allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, and parental alienation syndrome.

Child abuse and family law: understanding the issues facing human service and legal professionals.

Brown T and Alexander R
Crows Nest, NSW : Allen and Unwin, 2007
This book examines child abuse and child abuse allegations during parental separation and divorce, within the context of Australian family law. It begins with a brief history of child abuse in family law, including false allegations and parental alienation syndrome, and discusses the current laws of case law and child protection under the Family Law Act. The book examines the reporting, prevalence, definition, evidence, and custody and contact considerations of different types of child abuse, and the impact divorce and child abuse allegations have on families. The book concludes with child protection considerations of working with children, alleged perpetrators and non-offending parents and working with legal services, and includes case studies of intervention.

Adult children of parental alienation syndrome : breaking the ties that bind

Baker A
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2007.
"Parental alienation syndrome (PAS), occurs when one parent, often in response to divorce or separation, successfully manipulates a child to turn against the other (targeted) parent. In its most extreme form, children report that they despise or are frightened of the targeted parent, and refuse to have any relationship with him or her. Researchers are just beginning to study the ramifications of PAS on the child victims. In this ... book, Baker describes the long-term impact of PAS, which may include depression, divorce, substance abuse, trust issues, and alienation from one's own children. Based on a series of confidential research interviews with individuals who believe that they were child victims of PAS, the book provides an adult's perspective and voice to the experience of being manipulated as a child by one parent to turn against the other parent. By explaining the process and the meaning of the alienation for them, the interview subjects take the reader inside the world of PAS and demonstrate its life-long impact."

The international handbook of parental alienation syndrome : conceptual, clinical and legal considerations

Gardner R, Sauber S and Lorandos D
Sprinfield, Ill. : Charles C. Thomas, c2006.

Recognition of PAS in Australia.

Berns S
In: Gardner, R. A., Sauber, S. R. and Lorandos, D. eds. The international handbook of parental alienation syndrome: conceptual, clinical and legal considerations. Springfield, Ill: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 2006, p121-130
This chapter reviews the acceptance and presentation of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in Australian family law courts. The author begins by explaining family law and legal procedures in Australia of relevance to PAS, as compared to American law, including the ideal of joint parental responsibility, parental orders, the preservation of contact with non resident parents, the greater latitude of judges to work towards the best interests of the child, the increase in self representation by litigants, and the seeming shift in bargaining power to the non resident parent. The author then discusses the acceptance and use of the charge of PAS in family court trials, and the reliability of litigants and expert witnesses. The author concludes that there are no current institutional barriers to the use of PAS in courts, and that there is scope for greater acceptance if the PAS controversy was resolved with authoritative evidence, if expert witnesses behaved appropriately, and if legal advice was more easily accessible.

A handbook of divorce and custody : forensic, developmental, and clinical perspectives

Gunsberg L and Hymowitz P
Hillsdale, NJ : Analytic Press, 2005.

Children of divorce who reject a parent and refuse visitation: recent research and social policy implications for the alienated child.

Johnston J
In: Beyond the horizon: conference handbook: 11th National Family Law Conference, Gold Coast, September 2004. Melbourne, Vic: Television Education Network, 2004, p219-234, figure
A small proportion of children whose parents have divorced develop strong negative attitudes towards one of their parents. This paper critiques parent alienation syndrome theory and reformulates it as the alienated child. It models factors that contribute to alienation and presents supporting evidence from recent research findings. The paper then discusses whether or not children need a relationship with both parents, whether children who reject a parent are at risk for future emotional or psychological disorders, and whether they need court ordered treatment. It asks: at what point should children be given their own voice and have their self determination respected?
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