Because parental alienation can cause estrangement from a parent, children can suffer all the effects and consequences that normally come with the territory of losing a relationship with a parent. But there is also additional harm on top of this, because a child is being manipulated in a way that causes lasting guilt and shame.
“The long-term implications (of alienation) are pretty severe,” says Amy Baker, director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection. In her studies, she found children who endured this alienation to be depressed, guilt-ridden, and filled with self-loathing many years later. One 23-year-old woman who was alienated from her father as a child only recently realized she was manipulated, and says that “I’ve missed out on a great friendship with my Dad. It hurts.” (Lyon, 2009)
Parents who manipulate their children like this are essentially co-opting them to commit a vicious crime, and kids usually catch on eventually. When they do, they are riddled with feelings of guilt and shame for what they did…and contempt for the parent who manipulated them. “What I finally understand is how my dad rewrote history,” says one such boy. “When I realized that my dad had bullshitted me, I took another look at what a sad life she (his mother) had and I realized that he had almost destroyed her – and that I had helped him. I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself for how mean I was to her for years.” (Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakeslee, 2000, p. 123)
When the parent somehow succeeds in keeping a parent estranged or absent from the lives of their children, this parental absence by itself is a risk factor that creates a whole host of potential negative outcomes for children:
- Higher rates of behavioral problems
- Lower self-esteem
- Poor self-identity/family identity
- Increased risk for depression
- Lower academic achievement
- Increased criminality
- Psychological disorders
- Increased drug and alcohol use
- And more (You can read more on the effects of parental absence in our book ‘Child Maltreatment: A- Cross-Comparison’)
All in all, the long-term effects of parental absence can become just as severe as other types of maltreatment. No matter which way you look at it, the child comes away as the loser.
Are you experiencing parental alienation? Learn how to respond & get tips for dealing with this issue, along with some words of comfort that will help you cope with the situation in our Divorce eBook. It’s just $4.99 and all author proceeds go to help kids in need.