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Malicious Mother Syndrome/Parent Alienation Syndrome

What is it and why does it happen?

By Lawrence Edward HincheePublished 2 years ago 6 min read

When this syndrome occurs, a divorced or divorcing parent seeks to punish the other parent, sometimes going far enough as to harm or deprive their children in order to make the other parent look bad. Though most commonly called malicious mother syndrome, both mothers and fathers can be capable of such actions

Malicious Parent Syndrome Factors:

The parent will alienate the child from the other parent, leaving the other parent to resort to court intervention.

The parent will deny visitation and communication with the other parent.

The parent lies to the children about it and might even violate laws.

What are the first signs of parental alienation?

A Campaign of Denigration.

Weak, Frivolous, and Absurd Rationalizations.

Lack of Ambivalence About the Alienating Parent.

The “Independent Thinker” Phenomenon.

Absence of Guilt About the Treatment of the Targeted Parent.

Reflexive Support for the Alienating Parent in Parental Conflict.

Presence of Borrowed Scenarios. (Source: Find Law)

17 Signs of Parental Alienation

It is important to note that these are signs that may or may not lead to Parental Alienation.

Badmouthing the other parent

Limiting contact with the other parent

Interfering with communications, i.e. letters, phone calls, emails

Interfering with symbolic communication, i.e. photos of targeted parent in child’s home

Withdrawal of love towards the child

Telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him or her

Forcing the child to choose between parents

Creating the impression that the targeted parent is dangerous

Confiding in the child

Forcing the child to reject the targeted parent

Asking the child to spy on the targeted parent

Asking the child to keep secrets from the targeted parent

Referring to the targeted parent by their first name

Referring to the stepparent as “Mom” or “Dad” and encouraging the child to do the same

Withholding medical, academic, and other important information from the targeted parent/Keeping targeted parent’s name off of medical, academic and other relevant documents

Changing the child’s name to remove association with targeted parent

Cultivating dependency on the part of the child

People say this can't and or doesn't happen. But it does. I was one of many victims of malicious mother syndrome. My father would call from two blocks away and say he would be at our house in five minutes to pick us up. During that time my mother would herd the three of us out the door, down the steps and too her mothers house. All the while she would be telling us, "no pay, no stay." Lies told often enough become truth. The Nazis used that philosophy as well. My mother only complied with visitation when threatened with contempt of court and jail time.

My mother stated that she never loved my father. I asked her why she married him and she said, "because my sister liked him." I said to her "that was no reason to marry my father." My mother held onto his military records and refused to hand them over despite being ordered by the courts to do so. I found them and stole them for my dad.

A person who practices malicious mother harms and destroys any type of potential relationship a child can have with their absentee parent. My son and his first wife divorced and the divorce decree says that the only way his ex-wife could have visitation with her daughters was supervised through the police department or social services.

Symptoms and consequences of malicious mother syndrome/parental alienation syndrome.

The child consistently denigrated and rejected the other parent. Often, this was accompanied by an adamant refusal to visit, communicate, or have anything to do with the rejected parent.” They went on to report the “distress and symptomatic behavior of 44 children, aged 6–12 years, … who were the subject of post-separation and divorce disputes over their custody and care.” The authors described six primary responses of these children to their parents:

Strong alliance Alignment Loyalty conflict Shifting allegiances Acceptance of both with avoidance of preferences and Rejection of both

Wallerstein & Blakeslee (1989) described the malignant nature of parental alienation as stemming from what they called Medea-like anger. They opined that this anger was responsible for severely injuring “children at every age.” They reported:

“When one or both parents act the Medea role, children are affected for years to come. Some grow up with warped consciences, having learned how to manipulate people as the result of their parents’ behavior. Some grow up with enormous rage, having understood that they were used as weapons. Some grow up guilty, with low self-esteem and recurrent depression.

Clawar and Rivlin (1991) reported this same secret longing. They also pointed out in the 2013 edition of the same text that – not unlike the human immune system and disease – in the case of parental alienation “…we find similar outcomes in terms of degree; but no matter how resilient, no child is totally impervious to its harmful effects.” These harmful effects the authors listed as:

Loneliness Conflict with Parents Depression Sleep problems Substance Abuse Speech Problems Sexual Promiscuity Poor Body Image Poor Eating Habits Eating Disorders Weight Loss/Weight Gain Disheveled Living Space Poor Executive Function (Disorganization) Diminished Activity Psycho-Somatic Distortions Feelings of Isolation Increased Use of Technology as an Escape Lack of Friends Sibling Conflict (Including Violence) Heightened Fantasy Life Diminished Attention Span Social Identity Problem Regressive Behaviors Anxiety Conflicts in Peer Relationships School Dysfunction Memory Loss

Approximately one-third of the sample reported having had serious problems with drugs or alcohol during adolescence, using such substances to cope with painful feelings arising from loss and parental conflict. Baker found that these adults victimized as children had difficulty trusting that anyone would ever love them; two-thirds had been divorced once and one-quarter more than once. Baker’s respondents reported that they became angry and resentful about being emotionally manipulated and controlled. They reported that this negatively affected their relationship with the alienating parent. About half of Baker’s sample reported that they had become alienated from their own children. Baker reported that while most of the adults distinctly recalled claiming during childhood that they hated or feared their rejected parent and on some level did have negative feelings, they did not want that parent to walk away from them and secretly hoped someone would realize that they did not mean what they said.

Fidler and Bala (2010) reported that clinical observations, case reviews, and both qualitative and empirical studies uniformly indicate that alienated children may exhibit:

Poor reality testing Illogical cognitive operations Simplistic and rigid information processing Inaccurate or distorted interpersonal perceptions Disturbed and compromised interpersonal functioning Self-hatred Low self-esteem (internalize negative parts of rejected parent, self-doubt about own perceptions, self-blame for rejecting parent or abandoning siblings, mistrust, feel unworthy or unloved, feel abandoned) or inflated self- esteem or omnipotence Pseudo-maturity Gender-identity problems Poor differentiation of self (enmeshment) Aggression and conduct disorders Disregard for social norms and authority Poor impulse control Emotional constriction, passivity, or dependency Lack of remorse or guilt (Ibid. 2010).

I can see several of those characteristics in my self still today. If you are divorcing please take this into consideration. Please watch this video.

In this video the child is explaining to his parents that he still needs, love, nurturing, understanding and patience. He explains that how they parent him through the divorce will affect him for the rest of his life. My mother hated my father while they were married and her actions during the separation and divorce proved it. As my grandmother said, it is the kids that suffer the most during a divorce. That statement proved to be correct in my case. I don't know about other children of divorced parents.

Sources: Beyond the High Road: Responding to 17 Parental Alienation Strategies without Compromising Your Morals or Harming Your Child (Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D. and Paul R. Fine, LCSW, May 2008)

Find Law

Psych Law.net What are the Symptoms and Consequences of Parental Alienation?


About the Creator

Lawrence Edward Hinchee

I am a new author. I wrote my memoir Silent Cries and it is available on Amazon.com. I am new to writing and most of my writing has been for academia. I possess an MBA from Regis University in Denver, CO. I reside in Roanoke, VA.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (4)

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  • Judey Kalchik 2 years ago

    Much guidance and good advice. Thank you for writing this.

  • Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. Enjoyed the videos and information.

  • There are no winners in divorce but sadly, so often, the children pay the highest price. Great article my friend.

  • C. H. Richard2 years ago

    Divorce is so hard on children. Well written and researched. So sorry for all you have gone through as well.

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