Damning New “Research” into Parental Alienation

Damning New “Research” into Parental Alienation


This article was published in January 2020 following a research article by Dr Adrianne Barnett. I have taken my time in writing a response because it is a complex issue and I didn’t want to react with my emotions rather than my head.

I want to start by saying that I do agree that parental alienation can be used by abusive parents to obtain more access and control over their ex and the children. That in a nutshell is what parental alienation is.  The issue I find with this article is the misrepresentation of the facts and a clear misunderstanding of what parental alienation really is.

DOMESTIC ABUSEFirstly, women can be victims of parental alienation as well as men and so the assumption made in this statement is completely unhelpful to both genders.  I have worked with mothers, fathers, grandparents, step parents, aunties and uncles and even siblings who have been alienated.  Abuse is not gender specific and statistics can be fudged. Turning it into men v women greatly distorts the abuse dynamic and shows the author has no understanding of family systems and personality disorders. 

Secondly, it is rarely in cases where one parent has “won custody”. In the cases I have worked with, it is usually cited by a parent during the custody battle where one parent is restricting access to the children.  The very language of “mothers who have won custody” is detrimental to a child’s welfare. They are not a prize to be won. They are children who deserve to have a relationship with both parents. Having worked in child protection, children rarely reject their parents. Even abusive ones. In fact they often crave their love more as they have internalised that it must be them who has done something wrong and so want to win back approval.

So-called “parental alienation”

The quotation marks really wind me up here!  And shows the author has done no research into exactly what parental alienation is.  Denying that it exists is an insult to every mother, father, grandparent and child who has experienced this and shows a real bias in the authors work.  Research papers should look at the issue as a whole, not just the one sided approach Dr Barnett appears to have taken. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSEPractice 12J and the Fact Finding hearings were introduced to ensure that due diligence was done in cases where domestic abuse allegations are made.  In addition to that, police would have done their own investigations and where no evidence was found, No Further Action (NFA) was recorded. “Evidence” of domestic abuse cannot be provided where there was no domestic abuse.  Repeated NFA’s would indicate a pattern of false allegations and it is THIS PATTERN which is used as evidence to indicate parental alienation.

Parental alienation is not an equal counterpart to domestic abuse, it is a means of obscuring domestic abuse, and should be recognised as such”. Dr Adrianne Barnett

Actually Dr Barnett, parental alienation IS domestic abuse.  It is all about power and control. One parent simply refusing to allow the child to have a relationship with the other parent.

abusive fathers

Well this just takes the biscuit and proves to me the ill-informed, biased and dangerous stance taken by the author.

There are thousands of parents who are currently having no contact with their children due to allegations of abuse. Men who are accused of being violent and controlling, women who are accused of being mentally unstable and neglectful. To say that allegations are “frequently filtered out” goes against all the experiences of these people. And it is, to be quite frank, insulting. 

Domestic abuse is such a complex issue.  This article seems to imply that only men are capable of it. It also ignores the evidence that domestic abuse allegations have increased since the restrictions on legal aid were introduced meaning making an allegation of domestic abuse has financial rewards.  

However, it is true that many abusive parents will claim alienation rather than estrangement.  This article doesn’t even mention the difference. In fact this article is so women focused that children aren’t even given centre stage! 

Both men and women are victims of parental alienation.  But the truth in all of this is that CHILDREN ARE THE VICTIMS. Perhaps the author should have taken the time to speak to some of them before writing off this horrendous child abuse.

What are your thoughts?  I am interested in hearing from you about your experiences.

Are you heading to court with your ex and concerned that this narrative will impact your case?


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