National Coalition Against Parental Alienation

Promoting Awareness and Solutionssm

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is the unjustified disruption by a parent of the relationship between a child and the other parent in a divorce situation.

Parental alienation (PA) may well be considered a silent epidemic – one which causes significant abuse to both children and parents/family members.

The most significant frustration regarding parental alienation is the denial by some that it exists at all, or that it is always used as an excuse to obscure issues of domestic violence. While it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are people who deny PA (people deny moon landings, Elvis Presley’s death, and the Holocaust, etc.), it should be unacceptable that continued PA denials by a vocal minority of professionals, who ignore overwhelming international evidence, facilitate the widespread and unrestrained alienation efforts by parents which continue to cause significant damage to adults and children.

In many cases parental alienation severs the relationship between a child and the alienated parents’ entire family.  Grandparent alienation is a growing concern as dysfunctional divorce situations can have harmful consequences for the extended family.

Many people are familiar with the term parental alienation syndrome, which is generally credited to the work of the late Dr. Richard A. Gardner.  More recently, credible efforts have been made to remove ‘syndrome’ and refer to the entire issue as parental alienation (PA).  This seems a positive step given that some professional PA skeptics have misguidedly focused on the issues surrounding ‘syndrome’ as a means of denying PA behaviors and circumstances which can exist outside of current clinical parameters.

A general definition of parental alienation (PA) which can help people understand the issues involved is:

The actions of a parent which unjustifiably undermine a child’s access, communication, feelings and/or relationship with the other parent, typically in a divorce situation.  The resulting alienation of the child from the parent creates degrees of diminished relationship between the child and the alienated parent in a manner which can result in loss of affection and a reduction in quality of life for that parent, and may create dysfunctional effects over time for the child.

(This definition is not taken directly from any other source and therefore is presented as a useful description respectful of, but unaffiliated with, any specific previous effort.  NCAPA will update or change this definition as warranted.  NCAPA provides the right to public or private use of this definition, with attribution, but prohibits any claim of ownership of a definition substantially the same, unless previously in existence).