Location, Situation and Transition : The Variables In Parental Alienation

The idea that children only become alienated through the actions of a narcissistic parent acting against the other is not borne out in the evidence from our practice with alienation children and families over the past decade.  It is not borne out either by the international evidence, which is extensive and contributed to by many people who have worked tirelessly in this field.  What the evidence shows in fact, is that some cases where a child rejects a parent are caused by a narcissistic unwell parent who acts to bind the child into their delusional state of mind (as per the Childress Model), whilst others are caused by varying factors in the post separation landscape around the family.

What I should make clear is that alienation in a child is alienation, regardless of how it is caused.  It looks the same, it has the same impact on the family and on the child and it causes devastating pain and suffering for the rejected parent and wider family.  It also has exactly the same impact on the child’s longer term wellbeing, regardless of how it caused.  But the reality of alienation reactions in children is this.  Should the intervention not be matched to the cause of the child’s rejecting stance, the intervention will and does fail.  This is why we use differentiation in our work at the Family Separation Clinic, this is how we get successful outcomes in cases which feature  personality disorder in parents as well as those which do not.

The model of the child becoming bound into the encapsulated delusion of the unwell parent, has been used as a diagnosis in the UK for several decades.  When I first began work in this field, the problem of a child’s unjustified rejection of a parent was not referred to as parental alienation.  Instead, on being assessed by a psychiatrist, the problem was recognised as care of a child which had caused significant harm and as such as having met the welfare threshold.   The welfare threshold in the UK is the point at which the level of harm a child has suffered is considered unacceptable and it is measured thus

A child who meets the welfare threshold is one who is considered to have suffered or who is at risk of suffering significant harm and therefore the case moves from private family law to public law in which the state has a responsibility to intervene.   Whilst most cases meeting the welfare threshold, in which a child is demonstrating alienation as part of an encapsulated delusion with an unwell parent, do result in the child being removed from the unwell parent,  It is by no means a given thing.  At this stage, many factors will influence whether removal is carried out Not least of which is how the social workers who are managing the case understand and interpret the harm being done to the child.  Social workers in the UK, have little understanding of alienation but a disproportionate amount of power in these cases and can sabotage even the most clearly diagnosed and judged case of a child’s unjustified rejection.

This group of families however, is only a small group with an overall much larger group  where children are alienated.  The larger group contains many variables in terms of the reasons why children resist or refuse a relationship with a parent.  One of these is location, the geographical space between parents which the child must travel in order to be in relationship with each parent.  The other is the situation in which the child is living, the dynamics of the shift from together to apart and how well the parents have managed that.  The last is transition and it is this, combined with the others, which is most often likely to trigger the coping mechanism of alignment and rejection which heralds the child’s entry into an alienated state of mind.

As I said previously, alienation is alienation is alienation.  Regardless of how the child comes to be alienated, the reaction is exactly the same, the child absolutely refuses to see a parent and will, if pushed or pressed to do so, become phobic, haughty, hysterical and other such behavioural reactions seen in these cases.  The child will also, however they are alienated, show the eight signs of alienation.  They show these signs in a case of encapsulated delusional disorder (pure alienation or that which fits the Childress model) and they show these signs in hybrid cases, (where there is no diagnosable personality disorder in either parent).  There is a reason we use the eight signs of alienation in a child as our doorway to full assessment, differentiation and design of treatment route and that it is to determine whether or not the case may be that of a child’s unjustified rejection.  Beyond that first door, many other doors must be opened, not least the door which determines whether or not on or other parent has a personality disorder.  In the UK, diagnosis of personality disorder however, can only be undertaken by a psychiatrist or psychologist and it is simply not possible for this to happen based upon the symptoms of the child alone. In addition, a parent can  refuse to be assessed, leaving a huge gap in the evidence in a case and therefore preventing diagnosis. And anyone who tells you otherwise, has little working knowledge of either UK family law or the UK mental health system.

Back however to the wider group of cases seen in parental alienation which do not feature personality disorder.  These are still cases of a child’s absolute rejection and they are still cases of parental alienation.  How do these cases occur and why should we be interested in that?

They occur because of the family failing to make adjustments to the post separation landscape, but they occur not because of personality disorder but because the child is being influenced by variable factors in the post separation world.  Location, situation and transition are the three key variables which contribute to the child’s use of the coping mechanism of psychological splitting. These converge in some cases, to cause the child to pass the tipping point (our word for the dynamic change which occurs when the child enters into the use of the infantile defence of splitting).

Let’s look closer.

If we refocus our attention upon the experience of the child in the post separation landscape, one sees quite easily how this occurs.  How to prevent it occurring in the first place also becomes much more apparent, which shifts the focus of our energy from repair to prevention, something which is far more preferable across all types of alienation than shutting the door after child’s mind has been divided by the intolerable pressures placed upon them.

Consider this.

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(The credit for this series of images goes to Kelley Baker Ph.D,  from Austin Texas, who is an FSC trained practitioner in this field).

These images describe the emotional, mental and psychological as well as geographical divide which opens up after family separation.  In what follows, you will see, that the only person who moves across the transition bridge is the child.  The parents remain on each side of this metaphorical bridge, tending to their own wounds and orientating themselves to their new lives as individual beings.

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The journey across the transition bridge is, for some children, mediated by two parents who are healthy and well and who are able to put their child’s need for support first.  For others however, the journey is not mediated well as one parent tends to their wounds and the other has moved on to a different place in their lives.  In such circumstances, without good communication between parents, children are abandoned emotionally and psychologically to the treacherous journey across a no man’s land.  A space in which they have to constantly attach and detach from their relational experience of a parent and a journey in which they carry with them their anxieties about the other parent they have left behind.

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There is a reason why some alienated children behave like those who suffer school phobia.  It is because in school phobia the child is most usually anxious about the wellbeing of someone at home. In alienation, the child is anxious about the wellbeing of the parent who is most distressed or who is, in the child’s eyes, most unable to cope.  When the child who crosses the transition bridge leaves behind an upset, anxious or not coping very well parent, they are carrying with them a baggage of anxiety which creates maladaptations to their ability to arrive in the other space in a state of quiet regulation.

Thus, the back and forth transitions, between parents who are not in communication, leave the child in attachment ‘no man’s land’ having to manage that movement without the assistance of mediated attachment.

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Mediated attachment is when the hierarchy of attachment, which I have written about many times in the past – you can read what I wrote in 2013  here and again in 2014 for the Social Work Journal Seen and Heard  (you can read that article here ) is managed by two parents working together.  Attachment is, according to Bowlby, both hierarchical and mediated, which means that the child has a preferred list of attachment figures, which may change over time but remain constant in terms of the parents and which is mediated (managed/assisted) by attachment figures working together.  There is a reason why infant school teachers and nursery staff bend down to the child’s level on entry to the classroom and why pleasantries and eye contact are used to help the child across the transitional space.  It is because attachment between the child and parent must be mediated.  Especially when the child has an insecure or anxious avoidant attachment and finds distance from a parent difficult.

In this environment and with the challenge to manage closeness and distance from attachment figures who are now living apart and who are unable to attend to the child’s need for mediation of that space, the child attempts to travel back and forth on the transition bridge.  Making adaptations along the way, some of which are behavioural (the child who is emotionally cold and withdrawn on arrival for example and refuses to speak or will not take off her coat, the child who cries and says she does not want to go back to mummy or to see her daddy, or the child who arrives and discharges anger and anxiety in the form of dysregulated behaviours).  These children, whose parents are already hurting, often angry and at very different stages of the recovery process from the crisis of separation, are those who are likely to escalate the tensions inadvertently, simply because of their efforts to adapt to change.

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These children, whose behavioural responses are not understood by their parents, will display the oddest behaviours.  They will have outbursts of resistance to a parent, they will seem angry and disturbed on arrival or return and they will, eventually, if they are not helped, begin to tell lies about the other parent in order to give the receiving parent what they think that parent needs to hear in explanation for their behaviours.  It is incredibly difficult for a child to explain why they behave as they do and much much easier to say yes, I feel this way or am acting this way because of something that daddy did.  When that answer is received, (which to some degree can comfort a parent because it ‘proves’ that the other parent IS the bad person they believe them to be), disaster is not far away.  When that parent moves to choose to believe the child’s explanation for their odd behaviour, the alienation reaction is very close by.  All it takes is, perhaps, one more event (we call it a trigger event), which parents often refer to as a ‘Watergate’ event to describe a seemingly innocuous event which is blown out of all proportion  and which led to the child refusing to see the parent ever again.

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And when the trigger event occurs……


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The child utilises the coping mechanism of psychological splitting, refuses to travel on the transition bridge again (refuses to see the parent deemed for rejection, who is, paradoxically, the parent they feel can most do without them) and an alienation reaction is born.

The outcome is exactly the same as that which is seen in a case of pure alienation but the route into it is different because there is no personality disorder on either side and the cause is the child’s maladaptation to the transitions back and forth between parent who had no idea that this was even possible, never mind that their lack of ability to mediate the attachment is the cause of it.

It is nothing short of tragic in my view that this can happen after six decades of divorce and separation being a common thing in the western world.  That our lack of knowledge or belief in the child’s need for assistance is still ignored and the most widely promulgated messages about children and divorce is that so long as there is no conflict, they will get over it.

Many don’t get over it.  They don’t get over the attachment disruption originally caused by the separation from a loved parent who is placed at distance from them and they don’t get over the requirement to make transitions back and forth between parents who cannot mediate that space and they don’t get over the need to use the coping mechanism of rejecting a once loved parent to keep the other parent unnaturally close.

It is a tragedy in my view and a scandal and in the field of parental alienation we are all  working together to build the blocks of understanding which lead us to a better world for  alienated children, however they entered the alienated state of mind.

There are many variables in the world of parental alienation, it is not so simple as ABC. But it can be, when we understand the variables across the spectrum and apply all of our understanding and all of the remedies to heal the pain.

28 thoughts on “Location, Situation and Transition : The Variables In Parental Alienation

  1. Hello Karen, thank you for writing your recent article. I feel it reflects some aspects of the situation I am in as a rejected parent.
    Can you point me in the direction of any of your (or other people’s) writing that provides treatment options for children who have become alienated through the situation you outline in your article?
    I am desperate for any assistance.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am guessing Karen would say after you have tried everything but to no avail, wait for a similar “trigger moment” for them to seek you out or be responsive to a birthday card or something – and in the meantime live your life as normally and as healthy as possible so you are there when they surface and they find the parent they need and want in a good place to reconnect.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Susan you can email us at apps@familyseparationclinic.co.uk for information about how you can obtain help from us. We offer a range of services to support you. Do read around on this blog too and I will send you some information to help you in these circumstances if you email us. K


  2. I have been totally rejected out of my daughters life for the past 11 months but 4 years since she first started living with her dad. Finding you has opened my eyes to everything thank you your amazing xx


    1. Hi Hayley, do read around the blog you will find a lot of information. I am going to curate it into subjects soon. I am pushed for time unfortunately but I will. K


  3. Hi Karen I feel that all parents who act in ways you mention causing this reaction in their children have to have either a personality disorder or abnormal personality traits to put their children in a position where they can’t see the effect of their behaviour on their children. The more I read about alienation the more I have to agree with Dr Children’s. This just doesn’t happen to children whose parents put the children’s welfare first always irrespective of how much the parent is suffering. Pain loss grief and anger in a psychological normal range parent do not cause this reaction. Narele


    1. I disagree Narele, my observations, from direct work with families over ten years, demonstrates that the pain, anger and placement at distance from a parent can and does cause the alienation reaction. Pain and anger and distance do not equal a personality disorder and personality disorder cannot be diagnosed through the symptoms in a child either. Some parents are simply blinded to their children’s experience through their experience of their own pain, this does not make them personality disordered. I understand why the Childress model appeals but I fundamentally disagree that this is THE answer to the problem of the spectrum of parental alienation. Very best. Karen


  4. I tend to agree that “one-size-fits-all” doesn’t apply well to human beings, and definitely not to dynamics between human beings; but like Anonymous, I wonder how to explain the behavior of an alienating parent without the concept of a personality disorder. I get how pain, anger, sadness, trauma, etc, can affect someone’s choices and behavior in a divorce situation – but to continue ongoing alienation for years and years, with the self-centered focus, distortions, lack of empathy for their child and the target parent, intense need for control, and willingness to lie to and manipulate even authority figures (sometimes after taking an oath in court) seems to be best explained, to me, by the presence of at least personality disorder traits. But I would agree, that’s not the only thing going on – the reaction of the other parent and the vulnerability of the child, as well as the influence of any attorneys/therapists/judges also play a part.


    1. The reality is that it is possible to intervene in some cases of alienation and restart the relationship whilst not removing the child – the question being can they the aligned parent change or not which is part of our assessment and therapeutic trial programme. If they can then the restarting of the relationship is effective and we retrain the whole family, of not then we further evaluate butwhen we do not see encapsulated delusion which is very easy to spot in child and parent we do not treat it as if it is because if we did we would be harming the child. Encapsulated delusion has to be diagnosed in the uk in the adult not the child though the child is labelled with it too. So, the separating out of pure and hybrid depends upon pd and you would be really surprised how many non pd parents fight tooth and nail with the help of professionals to have their children’s voices heard and obeyed. The professionals themselves fight too and when this takes root it can be unnecessary for pd to be present because eventually everyone falls into a sort of delusion caused not by a parent but by a sort of group psychosis – but like the Salem witchhunts. The uk has had its fair share of satanic panic cases which have not involved pd but have spiralled into group delusion. All involving children all with some element of alienation in there. It’s a big topic and a huge spectrum and it cannot be reduced to abc unfortunately. K


    2. The difference is that if there is PD it will go on for ever because that is how the PD parent operates. If it is not it is likely to shift over time.

      The difference is can she or can’t she change.

      And no amount of court oaths will prevent a PD parent from lying even under oath – because they don’t believe or even know they are lying, they believe themselves completely.

      Which is why we do our assessment and therapeutic trial work. It sorts the can change from the cannot change in a very short space of time.

      And we take into account all of the variables in a case.


      1. That’s the part I wondered about – if they don’t have a PD, won’t it shift over time, when the alienating parent works through some of the grief and anger, and naturally moves on with his/her life, as most emotionally well people do? I watched two of my friends go through unwanted divorces and they had a lot of anger and pain – but were able to keep empathy for their children and their ex through the whole process, and one, who has been divorced the same amount of time that my husband has been, has moved on to a very good co-parent relationship with her ex – where we still have intractable alienation with no end in sight.


  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09p2p54/wanted-down-under-series-12-14-ellis-waugh-family

    In this episode of “wanted down under” mother doesn’t so much as bat an eyelid when planning a new life for herself down under putting considerable distance between the children and their father as well as other family members.
    Her motives might be considered purely selfish because the father of her children happens to live in the UK. The youngest children are undecided but repeatedly express anxiety about leaving their father.

    But, this is the age of the liberated woman, when women’s equality upholds the right of women to do just as they please with their children regardless of anybody else.

    You could retitle this programme, “mother pursues a relentless campaign to follow her dreams, with the kids in tow.
    An ideal advert for the woman of today.

    29.45 min. 9-year-old boy says he misses his Dad.
    38.00 father says Australia is better place for the children and he would have to go there too
    39.00 father repeats, go where you want I may end up there too
    39.34 mother says to child, “sounds like your Dad is going to follow us”. Other woman says, “I
    Don’t think we have a choice do we?” Mother says “we’re not getting rid of him that


    In my humble opinion this is not the time to split up the family.
    Why is the father such a push-over? Does he not realise his value to the children?
    Why does the mother fail to show respect for the children’s feelings?
    Does she think the children are hers to do with as she pleases?
    Does she have a personality disorder?
    Is she simply expressing her right to be equal (whatever that is)?
    Is this simply “geographical splitting”, the acceptable front of alienation?
    Does her bad-mouthing comment, “we’re not getting rid of him that easy” qualify as a Gardnerian indicator?
    Is she a clever manipulator of feelings or simply persuasive?
    Is she conscious of being an alienator or is she simply doing a good parenting job?


    1. situational variables which are completely accepted on mainstream TV. I am not sure what a Gardnarian indicator is if I am honest, I don’t subscribe to the manufactured splitting about Gardner. I use his eight signs and that is all I use as a starting point, beyond that all of our assessments are rooted in formal research based evidence.

      Yes she does think the children are hers to do what she pleases with.

      She might think she is upholding her right to be equal but as in UK family policy she assumes that her children’s wellbeing is indivisible from her own.

      So problematic on all fronts.


  6. I am so pleased to read this writing Karen, because I am hopeful that the disagreement you have with Dr. Childress is all down to a simple series of misunderstandings. For example you are certainly right to say,
    “The idea that children only become alienated through the actions of a narcissistic parent acting against the other is not borne out in the evidence…”
    So I hope it will come as a welcome surprise to find out that Dr. Childress actually said no such thing, certainly not in “Foundations” anyway. He actually says that neither mild nor moderate alienation could possibly be caused by a narcissistic parent. That’s because ‘alienation’ by a narcissistic parent will inevitably be only the most severe ‘alienation’. Your success to date has been with mild, moderate, and pretty severe alienation cases and I commend you for that. From where you are standing there is an obvious broad spectrum in the degree of intensity of alienating behaviors. You are right to identify it. So is Dr. Childress. The thing is that his concern is not with that spectrum, not even with the pretty severe alienation. Even though pretty severe alienation might approach it, it isn’t the degree absolute that is the most severe parental alienation. You might want to claim that factors other than a narcissistic parent can result in “splitting” and that such “splitting” has the potential to reach the same degree absolute of alienating intensity and maybe you have a point. Notice though that other comments doubt that any non-narcissistic parent would fail to counter the child’s “splitting”. In fact, even if degree absolute alienation turns out not to be SOLELY down to attachment-based pathogenic parenting, that would not be good reason to hinder passage of recognition of AB-pathogenic parenting by the American Psychological Association since it would become easier to get any other precipitator of “splitting” (if and when evidenced) to be appended later. I am a parental alienation expert by dint of 25 years’ experience. I know pretty severe alienation from my son and my first marriage. I didn’t think things could get much worse. Now I know severe alienation from my daughter of my second marriage, a narcissistic wife. I know both, and I know the difference. I know Dr. Childress knows the difference. That ‘spectrum’ you so like, please look at it again. The perspective it gives you is not complete.


    1. Thank you for your comment Richard. As in your communications with the Family Separation Clinic, you are making some claims in it which are untrue and which demonstrate just how much the way in which the behaviour of Dr Childress confuses the reality for some people.

      To begin with let me address the idea that I am in some sort of conflict with Dr Childress.

      I have not – ever – had a disagreement with Dr Childress.

      I have not ever spoken to Dr Childress.

      He has not ever written to me.

      I have not bad mouthed him.

      I have not denigrated him.

      I have not refuted what he has to say about his model.

      I have simply refused to be bullied into stating that his model is THE model and I have, as a result of that been the recipient of a sustained online campaign of denigration worth of any alienating parent.

      I do not disagree that elements of the Childress model work in cases of severe alienation. I know this because I have used elements of the Childress model for all the time I have done this work.

      In addition let me be clear.

      I do not just work with mild or moderate alienation cases. I work and have worked, with some of the most severe cases in the UK, including those with delusional parents and children and those where the most severe allegations have been made against a parent.

      I have done so with consistent success, using the model which has been used in this country for the past five decades of separation of a child from the source of the problem. As per the Childress model.

      The first such separation I undertook was well over a decade ago.

      The notion that splitting in a child is only caused by narcissistic parenting is simply not borne out by the evidence. The research evidence that it, not the anecdotal evidence. Splitting is caused by a range of things, not just a narcissistic parent and it is seen in cases with and without personality disorder in one or other parent. Anyone who is interested in reading what is written by people other than Childress could spend some valuable time looking at Amy Baker’s book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Working-Alienated-Children-Families-Baker/dp/0415518032.

      Doing so will help you to realise that others write in great detail about the spectrum of parental alienation, about the attachment system and about the suppression of that and did so long before Childress wrote and published Foundations.

      Whilst I accept parental points of view and I understand the strength of belief and the desire for an easy answer, I do not see these views as scientific evidence.Whilst parents are expert in their own case, as such, those comments are opinions not absolute fact. And as such, none of those opinions have been tested in clinical settings.

      And neither has the Childress model.

      All science is developed by building on what went before, not by destroying what has gone before and rubbishing that work and telling people that they are being hoodwinked. No parent is hoodwinked, other than into believing that the Childress model is a magic answer. If it were, I can faithfully promise you that it would have solved the problem a very long time ago.

      Many parents fail to counter the child’s splitting. They do so because they fall into believing that a child is telling the truth, they do so because the professionals tell them the child is telling the truth, they do so because there is a ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude in ancillary services, they do so because it is easier, far far easier to believe the child than believe they are lying. That is not about a parent having narcissistic personality disorder, that is about a parent being influenced in a concentric circle of pressure which is geared towards the belief that a child doesn’t lie and should be believed.

      I am not sure what you mean by hindering passage of recognition of AB pathogenic parenting, who is hindering that by speaking about the reality of parental alienation? Why does it have to be one or the other? Why does a split have to be present even in the very field which deals with psychological splitting? I have no problem with the Childress model, I use elements of it and have done for years. Why would I hinder that passage? I don’t. The only person who I can see hindering anything is Dr Childress who wants the world to believe that the only answer to PA is his. And that anyone who does not agree is somehow agin him.

      I am not agin him. I never have been. I wish him well and I can tell you this. I wish to goodness he would submit his model for scientific testing in clinical conditions in different legislative structures because then I could refer to it as having been peer reviewed and it would be accepted in our court based work.

      But Dr Childress will have you believe I am something called a flying monkey for saying so. I am not. I am someone who does this work, who knows this work and who is successful at this work. And all it would take is a research study which submits the Childress model to peer review and bingo, that model becomes part of the canon of scientific literature which furthers this cause.

      We should all be working together and we are. The only person not doing so is Dr Childress as far as I can see.

      There is no right and wrong. There is no black and white. There is nothing being withheld from you and nothing that people who do this work want more than to heal the splitting. A splitting I did not cause. A splitting I would like to see healed.

      But I am not the person laying down ultimatums and denigrating other people who work incredibly hard in this field.

      I wish Dr Childress well. I wish the petition well. I wish the movement to persuade the APA well. I have nothing but well wishes for you and everyone and anyone who suffers the horrible problem of parental alienation. Why would I feel any other way than this? I work with the problem, I see the damage it does and I am successful in many cases in treating it.

      As for the perspective you speak of, perspective comes from recognition that one’s own personal view is not the sum total of every experience and that if one only considers one experience rather than the many different experiences, one becomes blinkered to the belief that it is only this personal experience that means anything.

      Science is built by many hands not just one and each hand contributes something new and each new thing is tested and evaluated and builds upon the other existing foundations. There is absolutely nothing stopping Dr Childress submitting his model for testing – regardless of who he attributes his theories to, those theories, curated by him, need to be tested and evaluated in different settings. I would welcome the chance to collaborate in that. I would test his model for him in the UK legal setting – just as we are testing ours in the US court setting. It would be a great step forward to drop the splitting he creates and do that work. But that is for him to decide not me.

      I am a collaborative practitioner, I work with my peers and learn and share.

      That builds new roads and routes far faster than anything else possibly could.

      I send you my best support and wish you well.



  7. “Many parents fail to counter the child’s splitting. They do so because they fall into believing that a child is telling the truth, they do so because the professionals tell them the child is telling the truth, they do so because there is a ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude in ancillary services, they do so because it is easier, far far easier to believe the child than believe they are lying. That is not about a parent having narcissistic personality disorder, that is about a parent being influenced in a concentric circle of pressure which is geared towards the belief that a child doesn’t lie and should be believed.”

    Karen your posts continue to be a revelation of understanding…..thank you. Only a parent faced with having to choose whether to believe or disbelieve a child knows what an anguishing position it is to be in. The fear of getting it wrong is terrifying…..damned if you do , damned if you don’t. It is a minefield and definitely not clear-cut.

    I also wonder why so many people who come on here seem determined to prove/believe that the other parent has a personality disorder when as you so beautifully explain PA can happen without pd being present.

    If I’ve learnt anything from you Karen it’s how ill prepared parents are in the event of relationship breakdown and separation to deal with it effectively and how imperative it is that where children are involved in a separation, parents are educated rapidly on how it may impact on a child and agree on strategies to mediate any transitions for the children. Such wisdom is not automatic or innate. Especially if neither parent had personal experience of such a scenario themselves as children.


    1. I have long campaigned for a national family breakdown service Sadsam, I think it is a public health issue that all parents are educated about how children cope with family separation, it would help so many children and families to avoid the horrors of PA xx


  8. “He [Dr C.]has not ever written to me.”

    “Invitation to Karen Woodall

    I just posted the following Comment to Karen Woodall’s Blog “Fake News and Fabrications” in which I provide an alternate label for AB-PA (the Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck model of attachment-related pathology) and invite her to a professional-level conversation about attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce using a joint blog format”


    “Welcome Karen

    Hello Karen,

    I’ve set up this blog so that you and I can have a professional-level discussion regarding the attachment-related pathology commonly called “parental alienation” surrounding divorce.”



    1. Thanks Ted but I am afraid that an online ‘letter’ of that nature isn’t going to tempt me into discussion after the campaign of denigration I have been subjected to since last year. I am a professional. I am perfectly capable of having professional conversations in the manner in which all professionals undertake them. I am more than happy to test Dr Childress’s model of work in a UK legislative framework and research setting. I understand it is not his model but that of a number of experts writing which he has curated but it still needs testing in clinical settings for it to be used worldwide as he wishes it to. I am happy to collaborate in testing it in a research setting. All he has to do is call me or email me and we can discuss like all professionals do. Very best Karen


  9. Thanks, Karen – this post absolutely ‘pole-axed’ me when I read it a couple of days ago…..especially, the run-up to the ultimate watergate/trigger event

    I now understand my story/journey so much better and (more importantly) what that ‘road home’ might look like and need to be to succeed x


    1. Hi EHFAR, the road into the alienation mirrors the road out of the alienation which is why we differentiate the road in. It is critical that all parents understand this because it empowers them to understand what they can and cannot do and when/how they can assist their children. Empowered parents can do so much when they understand what happened to them and to their child. I am glad it helped xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. what your diagrams (and commentary) have done is illuminate the key events and dynamics leading up to THE trigger in a way I’ve never understood or appreciate in terms of its importance…

        having experienced PA as the child in the 60’s & 70’s, I’ve always known I have an insight into this world that many just don’t – that experience has also been of huge emotional benefit to me as a rejected parent over the past 17 years.

        however, for the first time, the ‘eureka moment’ was recognising that (where the kids navigated that bridge-crossing in post-separation) the empathy I had for their plight was woefully lacking as I (unconsciously) prioritised my own, what felt like, unbearable pain. I now see that, in my case, without the knowledge/ support of competent and selfless professionals (not to mention family and friends) the outcome was inevitable.

        Something has, most definitely, ‘clicked’ and this piece of the jigsaw has felt extremely empowering in terms of understanding “what i can and cannot do and when/how i can assist” my adult children, going forward


      2. Karen, can you give a quick example of how the “road into alienation mirrors the road out”? I find that a bit confusing.


      3. Hi Cara, yes I can. So the road into alienation involves examination of all of the variables and consideration of the events leading up to the child’s withdrawal. That enables a categorisation which then enables the correct intervention or treatment route. A child who withdrew in a pure case is not going to emerge or be helped out in the same way as a child in a hybrid case. In pure cases with PD, the child needs to be separated from the parent and if that cannot happen because the court won’t do it, the route out is much more difficult, lengthy and complicated for the child and the rejected parent has to be helped to understand that. If the case is hybrid and there is no PD but the child is still withdrawn, it is more amenable to structured therapeutic intervention which combines compulsion with education and a strongly held court framework for the family. Or if the court will not do that, the child is much more likely to emerge spontaneously if the parent waits. We can predict the potential outcome of children’s emergence by understanding the route into the alienation. K


      4. And build responses on our understanding of that. For example – if you try removing a child from a parent in a case without PD you are likely to simply transfer the coping mechanism with the child and the child will remain rejecting or will counter reject the formerly aligned parent – which means the splitting is still in place and not healed. Wrong treatment to category, bad outcome for child.


  10. Hi Karen, Thank you for this article, this describes what is going on with my partner and his ex and their eldest child who is currently 5. They have been separated since 2017 and she has done everything in her power to limit, block and reduce my partner’s contact with his two children. There is a court order in place that significantly increased his contact back in 2019 after virtually no contact for 2 years, but his ex raised a minute to vary to reduce it again. She was not successful, but his weekly frequency has been reduced to fortnightly and he now has no contact for 9 days every attachment issues seem only to lie with his daughter, although we have started to see some worrying signs in his son too. Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.

    Many thanks


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