Often, when parents agree to part ways, they do so because one or both parties within the marriage harbors feelings of anger or resentment toward the other. In some cases, these feelings manifest in such a way that one parent, whether knowingly or not, starts badmouthing the other parent or otherwise tries to influence a shared child to reject his or her other parent.

This behavior, known as parental alienation syndrome, can have considerable effects on a child’s development and emotional well-being, with many scholars agreeing that it constitutes a type of child abuse. Just how can parental alienation potentially impact a shared child?

Serious, long-term effects

When one parent repeatedly pressures a shared child to reject the other parent, it can lead to a wide range of emotional and related issues. Adult children of divorce who experienced parental alienation during childhood are more likely to report low self-esteem or self-hatred than their peers. They are also more likely than their peers to develop trust or substance abuse issues, and they may, too, have trouble expressing or accepting love from others as they enter adulthood.

Examples of parental alienation

The more you understand about what may constitute parental alienation syndrome, the better your chances are of identifying it and putting a stop to it before it does permanent damage to your child. Just what may parental alienation look like?

Parental alienation can manifest in many different ways. In some instances, it could involve one parent repeatedly trash-talking the other or calling into question the other parent’s ability to raise the child. It may also involve one parent trying to convince a shared child that the other parent does not value their relationship in an attempt to turn that child against the other parent. In other cases, parental alienation may involve one parent making it difficult for a child to communicate with the other parent when not under his or her direct care.

Parental alienation can have a damaging impact on your child that can last well into adulthood. Often, a parent who influences a child to reject the other does so out of disdain or resentment toward the other parent, but it is typically the child who ultimately suffers the most.