Prevalence of adults who are the targets of parental alienating behaviors and their impact

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Estimating the prevalence of parental alienation is challenging because not all children who are exposed to parental alienating behaviors become alienated (Harman, Bernet, & Harman, 2019). The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the proportion of adults who indicate being alienated from a child will be similar to results from a previous poll of North Carolina adults (Harman, Leder-Elder, & Biringen, 2016) using three nationally representative on-line survey panels from United States and Canada, 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, 39.1% (of 594) of parents in the US are the non-reciprocating 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 (Harman et al., 2016). Of these, 6.7% of the parents had children who were moderately to severely alienated, which is at least 1.3% of the US population. Alienated parents also had high levels of depression, trauma symptoms, and risk for suicide. Ramifications of these findings for researchers and practitioners are discussed.