Leyfi til að elska : tímarit Foreldrajafnréttis - jan. 2023, Blaðsíða 19

Leyfi til að elska : tímarit Foreldrajafnréttis - jan. 2023, Blaðsíða 19
capital in the form of skills and knowledge that help the child act in new and productive ways as an adult. Extended family also provide social connections, knowledge, and emotional and social investments [30,31]. Alienated children often lose these important relationships due to PABs (such as preventing grand- parent visits), which can reverberate throughout their lives [5,20]. They lose opportunities for learning skills and life perspectives that contribute to their future success, and social connections that provide resources outside of the immediate family. Loss of community Relocating to a new neighborhood, state or country is a PAB that severs or minimizes contact between the child and alienated parent [20,22]. The child is propelled into an unfamiliar environment away from their friends, school, and neighbors, compounding the alienated child’s loss. Children relocated internationally are also removed from familiar cultural and social norms that are part of their identity [32]. These losses occur during a time when the child is indefinitely isolated from their social support system [32] and hence forced to manage their multitude of losses alone. Interconnectedness of loss The loss of the parent-child relationship illustrates how complex and interactive these different losses are. Par- ents playmany roles in the child’s life to provide resources and opportunities, consistent with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs [33] as shown in Table 1. There is no upper limit a child can receive in each areadeven if one parent pro- vides opportunities and connections, the child still ben- efits from those provided by the other parent. Moreover, the absence of a parent has meaning over and above the absence of opportunities and resources, particularly when the child is manipulated to falsely believe that a parent is unloving, unsafe, and unavailable. When the child feels they are damaged by their association and thereby sym- bolically dissociate from the alienated parent, this action negatively impacts their self-esteem [34] and they sup- press their memories of love and affection regarding the alienated parent [35]. When the child loses connection with their own truth and sense of self, this creates anxiety and depression [3] and can make the child less amenable to remaining connected with the alienated parent. By losing the alienated parent-child relationship, the child becomes completely dependent on the alienating parent, which makes them more vulnerable to sacrificing their own needs for the alienating parent and they lose their own identity, childhood, and extended family connections in the process. Theoretical applications Many theories are useful for understanding PA and how it creates such devastating losses for children, including attachment theory. Infants seek comfort and proximity to an attachment figure because their attachment pro- vides survival benefits when activated by unsafe situa- tions (e.g., being alone) [36]. When parents respond to their children’s bid for comfort in a predictable and loving manner, children develop the experience of the parent as safe, loving, and available. Alienating parents undermine this attachment by convincing a child that the opposite it true about their other parent [19] which affects how the child feels about themself, the other parent, and relationships more generally. Identity fusion theory [37] helps explain why alienated children strenuously support and defend the alienating parent, join that parent in denigrating the alienated parent, make false allegations of abuse, and pressure siblings to do the same [21,23,38]. Identity fusion is characterized by pervasive feelings of oneness within a group that blurs boundaries between the individual and others, and PABs create this type of fused identity. Consequently, group members, particularly genetically related kin, are motivated to do as much for the group as for themselves, feel obliged to help and defend each other, and will endorse and enact extreme pro-group behaviors [39]. Uncertainty reduction theory can also help explain why children participate in unjustified parental rejection. When people lack confidence in a relationship’s future, they engage in behaviors to reduce uncertainty and unpredictability [40], such as looking for information to explain the deterioration of a relationship [41]. Alien- ated children look for any reason (often trivial) to justify their rejection of the alienated parent and will use ineffective strategies to reduce their uncertainty and cope with the loss induced by the alienating parent, such as preemptive obstruction (ending the relation- ship) [8,42]. These losses are forms of ambiguous loss because they occur without certainty or resolution [43]. Ambiguous loss appears in two forms: (1) when a loved one is physically present but psychologically absent; and (2) when a loved one is physically absent but psychological present [43]. For alienated children, the alienated parent is often physically absent but psychologically present, while the alienating parent is physically pre- sent, but psychologically absent because they are often preoccupied with their own psychological needs instead of the child’s [19,44]. This ambiguous loss gives rise to disenfranchised grief, which is an experience of loss that cannot be publicly mourned and is unacknowledged or unaccepted by others [45]. Alienated children are not allowed to experience nor express their pervasive sense of loss of the alienated parent-child relationship [19,46]. Although it may appear the alienated child has chosen to reject their parent, the rejection is not their choice, but rather a consequence of the alienating parent’s PABs [38]. Consequently, adults who were alienated from a Parental alienation and loss Harman et al. 9 www.sciencedirect.com Current Opinion in Psychology 2022, 43:7–12 builds on rich descriptions from clinicians as well as those personally affected by PA [11]. Alienating parents are more likely to have substantiated findings of other forms of maltreatment (e.g., neglect) against them than alienated parents [13]. Moreover, the use of PABs can be considered a form of family violence because of how significant the negative impact is on the entire family system [14]. Corruption of reality Parental alienating behaviors alter the child’s beliefs, perceptions, and memories of the alienated parent [15e17]. This corruption of reality is accomplished through systematic reframing of the other parent’s in- tentions such that even innocuous behaviors are recast as indicators of untrustworthiness. Because there is often a grain of truth, the child does not feel manipu- lated. Gradually, the alienating parent erodes the child’s critical thinking skills and ability to trust themself, which results in internal working models of the self and others as unsafe and unloving [18] and leads to feelings of disconnection from internal and external experiences [19]. The child’s sense of disconnection and inauthentic reality are reinforced when alienated parents repeat their false narratives to third parties as part of their alienation campaign [20]. It is the corruption of the child’s reality that triggers a cascade of profound losses the child then experiences, as illustrated in Figure 1. Cascade of losses Loss of individual self Because the alienated parent is presented as unsafe, unloving, and unavailable, the child feels compelled to reject any association with that parent, including aspects of their own self. Simultaneously, the alienating parent uses emotional manipulation strategies to create an unhealthy cohesion between themselves and the child [22], which produces an “us” (alienated parent-child relationship) against “them” (alienated parent and associated parties) mentality [23]. These PABs include making the child feel guilty for expressing positive feelings toward the alienated parent [21,22], and alliance-building strategies designed to cultivate dependence on the alienating parent [2]. Consequently, the child becomes unable to express personal initiative and loses the opportunity to develop an autonomous identity [22,24]. Loss of childhood and innocence Adults alienated as children describe experiencing a loss of childhood because they lost experiences necessary for adaptive psychosocial development [15,19,25] due to spending excessive time and energy focusing on and prioritizing the alienating parent’s needs [26]. Through processes such as adultification and parentification [20], the alienating parent provides the child with inappro- priate adult information (e.g., court matters) [27] and encourages the child to feel entitled to make adult de- cisions (e.g., the parenting schedule) [21]. Likewise, infantilization occurs when the alienating parent treats the child as though they are much younger than they are [20] by preventing them from engaging in experiences that foster autonomy and self-sufficiency, such as play- ing with same-aged peers and focusing on educational and recreational activities. Adults who later perceive the alienating parent as being responsible for the loss of their childhood also experience a loss of innocence about the nature of that relationship [19]. Loss of a “good enough” parent By manipulating the child to believe the alienated parent never loved or wanted them, abandoned them, or is dangerous, the alienated parent corrupts the child’s previously healthy attachment to the alienated parent [23]. Over time, the child internalizes these negative beliefs and harbors feelings of hurt, anger, and resent- ment [23]. The child comes to deny any positive feel- ings they previously had toward the alienated parent and perceives them as being “all bad” compared with the alienating parent as being “all good” [28,29]. Eventually they resist and/or refuse contact with the alienated parent, who was by definition “good enough” [1]. Loss of extended family Extended family members provide children with love, acceptance, nurturance, and other forms of psychosocial support throughout their lives [20] and provide human Figure 1 Current Opinion in Psychology Losses experienced by the alienated child. 8 Separation, Social Isolation, and Loss Current Opinion in Psychology 2022, 43:7–12 www.sciencedirect.com 19 MISSIR SEM BÖRN UPPLIFA VIÐ ÚTILOKUN FRÁ FORELDRI JENNIFER J. HARMAN O.FL.


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