Interest in the problem of children who resist contact with or become alienated from a parent after separation or divorce is growing, due in part to parents' increasing frustrations with the apparent ineffectiveness of the legal system in handling these unique cases. There is a need for legal and mental health professionals to improve their understanding of, and response to, this polarizing social dynamic. Children Who Resist Post-Separation Parental Contact is a critical, empirically based review of parental alienation that integrates the best research evidence with clinical insight from interviews with leading scholars and practitioners. The authors - Fidler, Bala, and Saini - a psychologist, a lawyer and a social worker, are an multidisciplinary team who draw upon the growing body of mental health and legal literature to summarize the historical development and controversies surrounding the concept of "alienation " and explain the causes, dynamics, and differentiation of various types of parent-child relationship issues. The authors review research on prevalence, risk factors, indicators, assessment, and measurement to form a conceptual integration of multiple factors relevant to the etiology and maintenance of the problem of strained parent-child relationships. A differential approach to assessment and intervention is provided. Children's rights, the role of their wishes and preferences in legal proceedings, and the short- and long-term impact of parental alienation are also discussed. Considering legal, clinical, prevention, and intervention strategies, and concluding with recommendations for practice, research, and policy, this book is a much-needed resource for mental health professionals, judges, family lawyers, child protection workers, mediators, and others who work with families dealing with divorce, separation, and child custody issues.
Barbara Jo Fidler is a registered psychologist and accredited mediator in Ontario.
Nicholas Bala is a Professor of Law at Queen's University and a leading expert on issues related to children and families in the justice system.
Michael A. Saini is an Assistant Professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto.
Contents ; About the Authors ; 1. Introduction ; 1.1 The Prevalence of Alienation ; 1.2 Prevalence of Alienation in Community Samples ; 1.3 Increase in the Number of Alienation Cases ; 1.4 Summary ; 2. Definitions and Debates ; 2.1 Historical Context ; 2.2 The Difficulty in Defining Alienation ; 2.3 Affinity and Alignment ; 2.4 The Role of the Adversarial System and Professional Advisors ; 2.5 Alienation Within the Context of High-Conflict Separations ; 2.6 Distinguishing Alienation from Justified Rejection ; 2.7 Mixed or Hybrid Cases ; 2.8 Dynamics in Alienation Cases ; 2.9 Alienation and False Allegations of Abuse ; 2.10 Debates about Parental Alienation as a Diagnosis or Condition ; 2.11 Summary ; 3. Risk Factors and Indicators Involved in Alienation ; 3.1 Extent and Limitations of Research on Alienation ; 3.2 Current Evidence on the Social and Psychological Factors Associated with Alienation ; 3.3 Interparental Factors Following Separation or Divorce ; 3.4 Factors of the Favored Parent ; 3.5 Factors of the Rejected Parent ; 3.6 Factors of the Child ; 3.7 Summary of Factors and Indicators ; 4. Assessment and Measurement Tools for Alienation ; 4.1 Clinical Judgment ; 4.2 Decision Trees and Assessment Protocols ; 4.3 Measurement Scales ; 4.4 Differentiating Levels of and Responses to Strained Parent-Child Relationships ; 5. Prognosis and Long Term Consequences of Untreated Alienation on Young Adults and Their Families ; 5.1 The Impact of Alienation on Children and Adults who were Alienated as Children ; 5.2 Spontaneous Reconciliation ; 5.3 When to Suspend Efforts or Letting Go ; 6. Prevention ; 6.1 Universal or Primary Prevention ; 6.2 Public Awareness ; 6.3 Selected or Secondary Prevention ; 6.4 Indicated or Tertiary Prevention ; 6.5 Summary ; 7. Interventions, Educational and Therapeutic ; 7.1 The Role of the Court in Educational and Therapeutic Interventions ; 7.2 Principles and Guidelines ; 7.3 Goals of Counseling ; 7.4 Treatment Modalities, Approaches and Strategies ; 7.5 Summary of Specific Interventions, Protocols or Approaches ; 7.6 Aftercare, Training, Accessibility and Costs of Interventions ; 7.7 Concluding Comments ; 8. Hearing the Voices of Children in Alienation Cases ; 8.1 Children's Stated Wishes: Clinical Perspectives ; 8.2 Children's Right of Participation ; 8.3 Children's Stated Wishes: Weight in the Courts ; 8.4 Methods for Courts Hearing the Views & Wishes of Children ; 8.5 Concluding Comments: Principles, Policies and Research ; 9. Legal Responses to Alienation & Contact Problems ; 9.1 Child's 'Rights,' Parental Duties & the Best Interests of the Child ; 9.2 The Role of Mental Health Experts in Resolving Alienation Cases ; 9.3 Enforcement issues and Judicial Remedies ; 9.4 Therapeutic Interventions and the Court Process ; 9.5 The Content of Agreements and Orders for Therapeutic Involvement ; 9.6 Adjusting Visitation and Interim Orders ; 9.7 Contempt of Court: Punitive Sanctions and Behavioral Conditions ; 9.8 Police Enforcement ; 9.9 Supervision of Contact ; 9.10 Award of Legal Fees ; 9.11 Joint Custody - Increasing Time in Care of Target Parent ; 9.12 Custody Reversal: an Option for Severe Cases ; 9.13 Suspension of Contact ; 9.14 Deciding Not to Enforce Contact Despite Alienation ; 9.15 Financial Penalties ; 9.16 Case Management - The Need for Judicial Control ; 9.17 Child Protection Agency Involvement ; 9.18 The Importance of Timely Legal Intervention ; 9.19 Conclusion: The Law as a Blunt but Necessary Instrument ; 10. Recommendations for Practice, Policy & Research ; References