Better Options Seminar II: Erasing Family
November 13, 2020 from 8:00-12:00
Better Options Seminars will provide background and basic information regarding Parental Alienation and children’s responses to high conflict divorce. Parental Alienation is being increasingly recognized as a barrier to wellness of children involved in a divorce where one parent actively and maliciously alienates the other parent without due cause. The phenomenon has gained credibility among the helping professions but treatment is widely misunderstood and without knowledge of the dynamics of the alienating situation counseling as is presently practiced may be contraindicated. Counselors’ knowledge of Parental Alienation and related issues often seen in high conflict separations is integral to the treatment of those involved.
What Is Parental Conflict?
The amount of conflict is a factor in a child's adjustment.
Arguing in front of a child or badmouthing the other parent is hurtful. Children should not be made to take sides in a parental dispute. (Krishnakumur and Buehler 2000). Parental conflict often begins about two years before the separation. If conflict is present then and continues through the divorce, the harm to the child magnifies.
High levels of parental conflict and poor parenting often appear at the same time. Each factor influences the other. This is true with married couples and separated/divorced couples. Krishnakumar and Buehler (2000) reported that the relationship between parental conflict and poor parenting was stronger among married couples. In either case, the harm to the child resulted from an increase in harsh discipline and a decrease in parental acceptance of the child.
Parent conflict is not uncommon. (Nielsen 2017).
Longitudinal research indicates that the effects of divorce on children varies with the level of discord between parents prior to relationship disruption. (Amato 2001]). Higher conflict is reflected in more negative effects on the child.
How couples handle their disagreements provides the model of conflict resolution that their children learn. Mild conflicts that are reasonably resolved, and do not focus on the child, have relatively benign effects on children. (Goeke-Morey et al. 2007). How often the parents fight, how intense/angry/hurtful they are, and how long such conflicts last, are all factors in the child’s adjustment.
Parental divorce is not the end of harm.
As children of divorce grow to be teens and adults of divorce. Laumann-Billings (2000) noted that parental conflict was the best predictor of distress for young adults from divorced families. A more recent study with college students whose parents divorced when they were younger yielded similar findings. The more parent conflict children experienced, the more distress they felt, as young adults, about their parents’ divorce. (Fabricius and Luecken, 2007).
FACT: The most recent diagnostic manual, DSM-5 has a new condition listed – CAPRD – Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress.
“This category should be used when the focus of clinical attention is the negative effects of parental relationship discord (e.g., high levels of conflict, distress or disparagement) on a child in the family, including effects on the child’s mental or other medical disorders.” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fifth Edition, 2013, pg. 716). Bernet (2016) proposed an expanded definition for CAPRD. He states that “parental relationship distress” refers to the disparagement of one parent by the other parent, high levels of parental conflict, difficulty resolving conflicts and lack of positive exchanges, among other things. He adds that harm to the child might be observed through behavioral problems such as oppositionality, anger, emotional symptoms such as depressed mood and/or anxiety. Physical symptoms in the affected child may include headaches, stomachaches, or aggravation of any medical conditions.
Parental Alienation by Dr. Eric Green in 008 Magazine