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 international expansion of the parental alienation belief system through the UK and Australian experiences.

Doughty J and Rathus Z
Mercer, Jean, ed. Drew, Margaret, ed. Challenging parental alienation : new directions for professionals and parents. London : Routledge, 2021. 9781003095927: 23p
This chapter looks at the position of parental alienation in the family court systems of Australia and England. The laws of these countries do not mention 'parental alienation'. Though both systems encourage ongoing post-separation involvement of both parents with their children, judges are required to hold children's welfare and best interests as the paramount consideration when settling parenting arrangements. However, many parents in both countries have limited access to independent legal advice and turn to friends and the internet for information. Many are exposed to unregulated discussions of custody battles, often from America, which may be sensationalised or not applicable in other countries' legal systems.

Denial of family violence in court: an empirical analysis and path forward for family law

Meier J
Washington, D.C. : George Washington University Law School, 2021.
This paper seeks to understand why mothers' claims of abuse are so widely denied in court. It presents findings from a study in the United States on cases involving both abuse and alienation claims. The study found that the family courts believed mothers' child abuse allegations less than one-third of the time, and believed only 1 in 49 cases of child sexual abuse when the accused father cross-claimed that the mother was alienating. Approximately one-third of mothers alleging a father's abuse lose custody, rising to one-half when the father cross-claims alienation. In response, the article urges changes in both the theory and practice of family law.

Ten key findings on targeted parents' experiences : towards a broader definition of parental alienation.

Lee-Maturana S, Matthewson M and Dwan C
Journal of Family Issues 16 Jul 2021: Advance online publication
This article highlights insights from a four-year study of parents alienated from their children. The study involved interviews with 54 parents on experiences, coping behaviour and needs, as well as a review of the literature. The first insight is that there is only limited research available from targeted parents' perspective, and that more studies are needed. The article also makes recommendations for how parental alienation is defined, arguing that it is a form of family violence against the targeted parent as well as the children.

Losses experienced by children alienated from a parent.

Harman J, Matthewson M and Baker A
Current Opinion in Psychology 25 May 2021: Advance online publication
This article looks at the current research and theory regarding children's sense of loss in cases of parental alienation. Unjustified alienating behaviours can alter a child's views and memories of the alienated parent, and the child can experience a sense of loss across many areas of their lives. This can be compounded by the loss of social supports and extended family, adding to their sense of isolation.

Improvements in family law proceedings: second interim report

Australia. Parliament. Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System
Canberra : Parliament House, 2021.
A Parliamentary Joint Select Committee was established in 2019 to investigate a range of issues associated with the appropriateness, effectiveness and impacts of the family law system. This report presents their second interim findings and recommendations, with the final report expected on 30 June 2021. The second interim report focused on issues relating to delays, costs, family violence, parenting and property matters, and support services and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The interim report makes 29 recommendations, including: a single point of entry into the family law system, to facilitate effective triage and case management; new research to be conducted into how to make the courts less adversarial and involve the voice of children; and regular training for all family law professionals into issues including family violence, child abuse, trauma informed practice, and unconscious bias.

Understanding targeted parents' experience of parental alienation : a qualitative description from their own perspective.

Lee-Maturana S, Matthewson M and Dwan C
American Journal of Family Therapy 19 Nov 2020: Advance online publication
This article explores parents' experiences of being the target of parental alienation. It highlights findings from interviews with 54 parents who said they had been alienated from their children, regarding their experiences before and during the alienation. In particular, the article highlights how many of the parents were subjected to family violence before separation and continued to experience coercion and control after the separation, as well as alienation from their children.

Responding to severe parent-child rejection cases without a parentectomy : a blended sequential intervention model and the role of the courts.

Polak S, Altobelli T and Popielarczyk L
Family Court Review v. 58 no. 2 Apr 2020: 507-524
Research on post-separation parent-child contact problems has grown in recent years, improving how courts can assess and respond to such cases. However, severe cases continue to be a challenge for legal and mental health professionals. This article looks at the latest social science literature on the differentiation of parent-child contact problems and treatment approaches, with a particular focus on how to respond to severe cases, as well as court challenges and the need to delay making a final order until various interventions have been tried. The article then proposes an innovative blended sequential treatment approach, which is intended to avoid a permanent separation of the child from either parent. The approach involves a reversal of care with court mandated therapeutic support for the rejected parent and child, with the favored parent involved in the therapeutic plan from the outset. It argues that whenever possible, the objective of the court process should be to promote a healthy relationship between the child and both parents, and avoid indefinitely excluding one parent from the child's life.

Children resisting contact with a parent due to abuse, alienation, or other causes : can a proactive role for lawyers contribute to better outcomes?

Campbell J
Family Court Review v. 58 no. 2 Apr 2020: 456-469
This article was written by a lawyer in a Family Law firm. It looks at cases where a child resists contact with a parent, and the role lawyers can play in helping these families. It discusses the challenges for lawyers who are working with parents facing these issues, and the opportunity they have to provide advice and referral or even early intervention and de-escalation.

Improvements in family law proceedings: interim report

Australia. Parliament. Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System
Canberra : Parliament House, 2020.
A Parliamentary Joint Select Committee was established in 2019 to investigate a range of issues associated with the appropriateness, effectiveness and impacts of the family law system. As the inquiry has been granted an extension, this interim report has been prepared to summarise the wide range of views and issues raised during public consultations so far. No recommendations are presented at this stage. The report provides a brief overview of the family law system and the courts, summarises the reforms to the Family Law Act since its introduction, then provides a snapshot of the issues raised in the many individual submissions in the inquiry. These include perceptions of bias, the role of family consultants and expert witnesses, whether the adversarial nature of the family law courts could be improved, misuse of systems and processes, professional misconduct, legal fees and costs, delays in the court system, family violence and parental alienation, custody and enforcement, parenting matters, the division of property, child support and its interaction with the family law system, support services within the family law system, and alternative dispute resolution.

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 v. 29 no. 8 Aug 2020: 2268-2280
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
2017.
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.
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