Estimating the prevalence of parental alienation is challenging because not all children who are exposed to parental alienating behaviors become alienated. The purpose of the current study was to determine the proportion of adults who indicate being alienated from a child using three national online panels that are representative of adults from the United States (two polls) and Canada (one poll) and to determine the mental health impact of parental alienating behaviors. Results from the first two polls indicate that the prevalence of parents who feel they are being alienated from their children is higher than originally estimated: 35.5% (of 273) in the U.S. and 32% (of 397) in Canada. Using another means of assessment for the third poll, we found that 39.1% (of 594) of parents in the U.S. are the nonreciprocating targets of parental alienating behaviors, which is over 22 million parents and confirms previous estimates that did not differentiate between reciprocating and non-reciprocating parents. Of these, 6.7% of the parents had children who were moderately to severely alienated, which is at least 1.3% of the U.S. population of children. We also found alienated parents had greater levels of depression, trauma symptoms, and risk for suicide.
Discussion will center on the ramifications of these findings for researchers and practitioners, and the need to differentiate between families in which parental alienating behaviors are reciprocal (typically resulting in loyalty conflicts) versus non-reciprocal (typically resulting in parental alienation). Jennifer Harman, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology, Colorado State University. Dr. Harman earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of Connecticut in 2005. She also has a master’s degree in psychological counseling from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her primary research is in the area of intimate and family relationships, most specifically, on how interpersonal and social factors such as power affect families after separation and divorce. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on parental alienating behaviors, with a focus on how it is a form of family violence.
The interview was filmed on location at the PASG 2019 International Conference (Parental Alienation Study Group) in Philadelphia, USA, in September 2019. The video is produced by Equal Parenting Rights Association, Iceland, www.foreldrajafnretti.is.