THE ROLE OF DIVORCE IN PARENTAL ESTRANGEMENT

A high percentage of the estranged parents in my practice are divorced from their child’s other parent. There are many ways that divorce can increase the probability of estrangement and make reconciliation more challenging:

  • It can create loyalty conflicts within the child even if the parents manage it well
  • It can create a perception that there were winners and losers in the divorce
  • It creates the opportunity for one parent to attempt to poison the relationship with the other parent
  • It may tempt the child to see the parents less as a parental unit of which they are a part and more as individuals with their relative strengths and weaknesses
  • It introduces people into the child’s life that can:
    • Intensify the feelings of disloyalty to the other parent
    • That the child doesn’t like
    • That the child feels threatened by in terms of sharing emotional and financial resources
  • It can create the opportunity for unholy alliances with extended family such as when former in- laws turn the children against the parent or even when the parent of the estranged parent turns the child against that parent

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