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Shared Parenting and Parental Alienation

Updated on September 5, 2017
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Kerri is a writer and an amateur photographer from Jackson, Tennessee. She's also awesome and 140 characters isn't enough for her bio.

Only 17% of children have shared parenting.

The lack of the benefit of equal influence and participation by both parents has a tremendous impact of the child’s emotional, mental, and physical health.

According to three separate child development organizations, shared parenting (after parental separation or divorce) is a strong “vaccination” against the poor outcomes associated with single parenting.

“There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable…arrangement that is optimal to the child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents.” The efficacy of shared parenting has been supported for children of preschool age and older. Parents who equally share parenting have reported that their children are better adjusted across multiple measures than their sole-custody or step-family peers.

According to research published by the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Justice, and the Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for 63% of teen suicides, 70% of the juvenile population of in state-operated institutions, 71% of high school drop-outs, 75% of children in chemical abuse centers, 85% of the prison population, 85% of children with behavioral disorders, and 90% of homeless and runaway children.

The United States Supreme Court has found that
“the interests of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children…is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

“A small minority of divorcing parents remain in ongoing high conflict. This subgroup constitutes about 10% of all divorcing families (Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992). Ongoing high conflict is identified by multiple criteria, a combination of factors that tend to be, but are not always, associated with each other: intractable legal disputes, ongoing disagreement over day-today parenting practices, expressed hostility, verbal abuse, physical threats, and intermittent violence. Research findings to date indicate that high-conflict divorced parents have a relatively poor prognosis for developing cooperative coparenting arrangements without a great deal of therapeutic and legal intervention. Those parents who met the multiple criteria of high conflict at the time of divorce were likely to remain conflicted over a 2- to 3-year period. At best, they became disengaged and noncommunicative with one another; they were less likely to become more cooperative over this period of time” (Johnston, 1992; Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992). Ongoing and unresolved conflict between divorced parents has detrimental effects on children — especially boys.

Children are better off in the care of parents who are relatively free of psychological disturbance or substance abuse since these conditions are shown to compromise the capacity for effective parenting.


Research indicates that children who spend more time with their fathers are more likely to succeed academically and less likely to be delinquent or have substance abuse issues. “Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians.” An affectionate, supportive, involved father contributes greatly to a child’s cognitive, linguistic, and social development, as well as the child’s academic achievement, inner core resource, sense of well-being, self-esteem, and authenticity.

A child’s primary relationship with his father can affect all of the child’s relationships from birth to death, including friendships and romantic relationships. Boys model themselves after their fathers. If a father is abusive, controlling, and dominating, his son will imitate such negative behavior. However, if the father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, the son will want to be the same way.

Though mothers are custodial parents 82.5% of the time, it may be because fathers aren’t fighting for the role. A Massachusetts study found that fathers who actively sought primary or joint custody obtained it more than 70% of the time.

A parent should never use a child to spy on a former partner. Parent should not use the child to extract personal information about the child’s other parent. Furthermore, a parent should never withhold visitation as a means of punishing the other parent. By doing so, a parent is punishing his or her child.

Parental Alienation occurs when a parent encourages or promotes a negative view of the other parent in some way (actions, statements, or subtle suggestions). Alienation is motivated by anger, hurt, greed, or a desire for revenge. It is designed to punish the other parent. The actions or statements serve no reasonably useful purpose, such as to protect the child.

Parental alienation is often done by an abusive (or otherwise substandard) parent against the “good” parent. Abusive parents seek to gain power and control over the other parent, and manipulating the child is how they accomplish this.

“Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents, and to be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is in itself a form of child abuse.”

Parental alienation “involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. In my own research on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), I found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Constructive alternatives to adversarial methods of reconnecting with their children were rarely available to these alienated parents.

For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous and unworthy parent. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted in feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent or to even talk about them. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children; Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.

Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents, and to be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is in itself a form of child abuse. Since it is the child who is being violated by a parent’s alienating behaviors, it is the child who is being alienated from the other person who was there . Children who have undergone forced separation from one of their parents in the absence of abuse, including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress.”

Sources: Huffington Post,, Tennessee State Courts, National Parents Organization


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