These clients may be unaware of the meaning of the lost relationship and may even minimize its effect on their growth, development, and current mental health concerns.
Children referred to a school social worker for acting out or experiencing academic problems may casually reveal that they have no contact with a “hated” parent.
Indications that a scenario is borrowed include the use of words or ideas that the child does not appear to understand, speaking in a scripted or robotic fashion, as well as making accusations that cannot be supported with detail.
Finally, the hatred of the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family.
When alienated children are questioned about the reasons for their intense hostility toward the targeted parent, the explanations offered are not of the magnitude that typically would lead a child to reject a parent.
A third scenario is represented by clients who enter therapy consumed with fear that the other parent is turning the children against them.
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent.
Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who come to hate, fear, and reject the targeted parent as someone unworthy of having a relationship with them.
Among the many areas of concern for social workers working with divorced or separated couples with children are two related problems: parental alienation, or the efforts on the part of one parent to turn a child against the other parent, and parental alienation syndrome, or a child’s unwarranted rejection of one parent in response to the attitudes and actions of the other parent.
Social workers may encounter these problems in a number of settings, such as family service agencies, schools, and family court, as well as in private practice working with high-conflict divorcing couples, parents who believe that the other parent has or will turn the children against them, alienated children refusing to see a parent, adults who are still alienated from a parent, or elders who have “lost” their children to parental alienation.