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Damage Caused by Parental Alienation

By Susan McCammon ; Updated September 26, 2017
Alienation may negatively affect a child's social development.

Parental alienation occurs when parents separate and one prevents the other from participating in bringing up a child. According to the American Journal of Forensic Psychology, children develop parental alienation syndrome when one parent actively tries to make a child hate the other by speaking ill of them. As a parent, you should address the issue of parental alienation, as it negatively affects child development

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Conflict arises when one parent struggles to bar the other from having a harmonious relationship with the child. The parent who has custody over a child may denigrate the other parent so that the child hates him or her. This act of character assassination leads to a strained relationship between both parents. In her book “The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration,” Linda Gottlieb states that a child suffers from this conflict because the denigrating parent may withdraw love if the child does not hate the targeted parent.


Parental alienation bars one parent from providing a child’s basic needs. The parent a child is staying with may not be able to provide educational, nutritional or emotional needs of a child due to factors such as poverty. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, neglected children are more likely to suffer from non-organic failure to thrive: a condition where a child does not develop in the first three years. Children suffering from neglect can also become withdrawn and unresponsive.


Psychology Today states that every child has a right to a loving relationship from both parents. Parental alienation denies the child this right because one parent prevents the other from participating in the child's upbringing. Instead of hating the alienated parent, children affected by parental alienation may direct hatred toward themselves. This act of self-hate arises from feelings of inadequacy, which the child believe may have led the alienated parent to hate her.

Poor Academic Performance

In some cases of parental alienation, the mother prevents the father from participating in raising a child. This negatively impacts the intellectual development of the child. The Child Welfare Information Gateway reports that children with involved fathers have higher IQ levels. These children have better cognitive and linguistic abilities when compared with children with less involved fathers. Such developmental superiority continues into adolescence.

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About the Author

Susan McCammon began writing in 1997. Her work has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and educator with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3. McCammon holds a Ph.D in Psychology from University of South Carolina.

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