News | South Africa
Dr Pixie du Toit, founder of the Sinoville Crisis Centre, says parental alienation syndrome (PAS) arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes.
“It results from a brainwashing parent’s vilification of the other parent. The alienating parent’s primary purpose is a campaign of animosity, even hatred of the alienated parent, in order for the child to reject this parent, in many cases the father,” Du Toit said.
According to statistics, the mother is the alienator in 85 to 90% of divorce cases.
“The vilification of the targeted parent often expands to include that parent’s extended family, such as grandparents, with whom the child previously may have had loving relationships. So the grandparents are then also rejected.”
Du Toit said the alienating parent often becomes obsessed in her efforts to frustrate her ex-husband’s visitation rights or telephone calls to the child (or children).
“She may even pressure the child to lie about physical or sexual abuse, thereby eliminating all contact with the alienated parent.
“I have experienced gender-based discrimination of the alienated parent, often the father, during my work of assessing alleged sexual abuse cases.
“Often children are told by the alienating parent to make a false accusation of sexual assault,” said Du Toit.
Alienated children tend to identify with and imitate the alienator and do not wish to spend time with, or visit, the alienated parent.
“They suffer from the same delusions and irrational beliefs as the alienator in regard to the non-residential parent,” Du Toit added.
Therapists who were not specially trained in working with alienated children often enhance parental alienation when they go along with the child’s wishes and alienation becomes more difficult to reverse.
“Failure to reverse alienation will have a detrimental effect on the child’s psychological development, especially in forming and maintaining good interpersonal relationships,” she said.
Du Toit said alienation was in direct contrast with the fact that children fare best with two loving and caring parents to guide them.
“However, when parents divorce or separate, it is still possible to provide such care and guidance.”
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