Children Who Resist Post-Separation Parental Contact: A Differential Approach for Legal and Mental Health Professionals

Author(s): Barbara Jo Fidler, Nicholas Bala, Michael A Saini

Social Work

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.

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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

General Fields

  • : 9780199895496
  • : Oxford University Press Inc
  • : Oxford University Press Inc
  • : September 2012
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Illustrations
  • : Barbara Jo Fidler, Nicholas Bala, Michael A Saini
  • : Paperback
  • : 362.82943
  • : 324