Parental alienation: when the child rejects a parent

Psychiatrists and family judges are increasingly confronted with cases of unexplained rejections of a parent by their child, most often after a divorce. What are the symptoms of what is called “parental alienation”? What care can be offered to families? Focus on parental alienation with Dr. Paul Bensussan.

Parental alienation: when the child rejects a parent
Parental alienation: when the child rejects a parent

All of a sudden, for no reason, the child starts to reject one of his parents utterly. This little-known phenomenon, known as “parental alienation,” is most often the result of parental divorce, particularly when the parents have been very confrontational. This syndrome is “not recognized by all experts,” says Dr. Paul Bensussan, expert psychiatrist, a specialist in parental alienation.

Parental Abuse: Rejection of a Parent Without Reason

It is an American child psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner, who is at the origin of the theory of parental alienation syndrome. The latter describes a relational pathology within a family, most often after a divorce, which is manifested by the single attachment of a child to one of his parents (referred to as an “alienating parent”) and The unwarranted rejection of the other parent (“alienated parent”).

For some experts, the cause is the manipulation of the child by the alienating parent. Others, like Dr. Paul Bensussan, deviate from this pattern, which is considered too simplistic. “He does not take enough account of the child as a subject: a child can spontaneously ally himself with one of his parents After a divorce, for example to the victim, who suffers from the departure of the other, or on the contrary to the one whom he sees as the strongest psychologically or materially, ” says Dr. Bensussan. “Some parents will refuse this alliance chosen by the child, others, on the contrary, accommodate themselves, ” he said. It is this alliance that is the starting point of parental alienation.

Symptoms of parental alienation

“I do not want to go home,” “I hate it” … The difficulty is to make a diagnosis of this syndrome of parental alienation when a child rejects one of his parents. As with any diagnosis in psychiatry, it is a grouping of arguments that will make it possible to speak of parental alienation. “The most important thing is to assess the quality of the previous relationship with the alienated parent: if he has been very absent or violent, we can not talk about parental alienation,” says Dr. Bensussan. This may be more akin to a diagnosis of minor abuse.

On the other hand, if the child had previously had a good relationship with the parent whom he no longer wants to see, the diagnosis can be made. “It is the irrational nature of the rejection that is revealing,” informs the psychiatrist. The more severe the syndrome – in this case, the child has cleared up the good memories of his relationship with the alienated parent and has excessive grievances – and the easier the diagnosis is. In light forms – when a child says he does not want to go to one of his parents because he is bored, he is away from his friends, he does not want to talk to him Phone, that it shows coldness and distance – it is harder to detect this syndrome. ” The main difficulty is that this alienation,

Parental alienation: medical and legal care

Faced with a case of parental alienation, ” there must be a psycho-legal response,” says Dr. Paul Bensussan. The family judge and the expert will then work hand in hand to try to help the family, especially the child, to get out of this relational pathology. The judge may decide to set up family therapy or mediation, or even individual therapy for the child in severe forms.

Experts agree that the parental alienation syndrome must be taken care of early because the phenomenon of rejection can settle for the duration after the adolescence. It is the happiness of the rejected parent, but also the well-being of the child: the child can develop optimally only by having relations with both parents.


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