Why Moving Upstream to Prevent Parental Alienation Matters

The title of the EAPAP Conference 2018 is ‘Moving Upstream’ and focuses upon the internationally recognised standards of practice which are being curated in preparation for regulation of this field of work in Europe.  In the coming two weeks, as we approach the conference itself, I will set out those standards, which are drawn from the international research work done by members of the Parental Alienation Study Group, the worldwide group of experts who are researching this issue.

The international standards of practice are evidence based. Which means that they rest upon peer reviewed studies of families affected by parental alienation and interventions which treat the problem.  One of the allegations which are made about parental alienation is that it is either ‘junk’ or ‘pseudo’ science – labels which are designed to influence unaware people to believe that PA is a non issue.  In recent days in the UK, the phrase ‘pro-parental alienation campaigners’ has popped up in commentary, with the same intent. To influence people to believe that PA is simply something that disgruntled parents use to prop up their grievances.  Nothing could be further from the truth and any self respecting person who is worth listening to, will by now understand the reality that parental alienation is nothing to do with parental rights or angry parents and everything to do with mental health and the long term impact on children of the psychologically split state of mind.

Anyone can view the wealth of peer reviewed work in this field at the click of button here.

In the past five decades, children of divorce and separation in Europe,  have been regarded as being of little importance and their needs have been seen as indivisible from those of the primary carer – almost always their mother.  This has been the result of fifty years of feminist practice in the field of family separation, in which children in family separation have been seen as being the property of their mother.  This in itself is a mirror of how children used to be regarded as the property of their father and it has done nothing to prevent children from becoming weaponised in a war between parents over their rights to remain involved in their children’s lives.

During the past five decades the issue of children of divorce and separation has been largely represented by parental rights groups which means that the issue of how children are harmed in family separation has been seen as simply being about aggrieved parents.  What we know about parental alienation, (which is the child’s defence mechanism of psychological splitting in an environment which has become intolerable for them), is that it causes great harm to children.  We not only know that from research evidence, we know it from practice with families. And in the UK, increasingly, we know it from the cohort of young people who were rendered permanently alienated by judgements in the family courts over the past two decades.

When I first began work in this field, young people who are now reaching the age of 21 were not even born.  Witnessing a generation of children of divorce and separation being born and reaching their maturity whilst being affected by the UK approach to dealing with parental alienation has been a sobering experience.  In the past two decades I have seen children enter into psychological splitting, their rejected parent judged wanting and prevented from ever seeing their child again (on the recommendation of CAFCASS) and emerge from the alienated state of mind to re-find the parent they had been forced to choose to lose through the lack of support to the family from the family courts.  I have also seen the extreme damage that the upholding of their ‘decision’ to reject a parent has done to them and am now working with that generation of alienated children who were not helped by the family courts but abandoned to their fate by the ignorance and blinkered approach of the services that were supposed to help them.  The shocking damage done to children when state services eschew their responsibility to help a child in favour of upholding the maladaptive response of rejecting a parent, is evident in this generation of recovering alienated children. Time will tell how many of these seek compensation for the enormous damage done in giving them the decision making power through upholding their ‘wishes and feelings.’

The damage done to children when their ‘decision’ to reject a parent is upheld by the state is difficult to describe.  What we see in these young people is a missing developmental stage which is caused by the psychologically split state of mind.  When energy which should be going into learning and growing normally, is diverted to a regressed state of mind of psychological splitting, this defence mechanism depletes the focus from where it should be and concentrates the child’s energy on keeping the defence in place.  Thus, the young people who are now seeking help, are showing signs of borderline personality issues, a lack of internalised boundaries, a fragile sense of self and intolerance of normal relational experiences.  These are the children whose wishes and feelings were allowed to guide the decisions made by the family courts over the past two decades.  These are the children who are living with the consequences of the adults in their lives being either unable to take responsibility for them because they were forced out of their lives or failing to take responsibility by giving the child the responsibility to decide.

And those adults include all of the family court services which were approached for help by terrified rejected parent. The Judges, the CAFCASS workers, the Social Workers, the Therapists, the Mediators and all.  Anyone in the past decades, who has simply relied upon the wishes and feelings of a child to make a decision about a relationship that child has with a parent, is responsible for the damage which is now being witnessed in this emerging generation of young people.

It is time for change.

Moving Upstream is about regulated practice in the field of parental alienation, early intervention to properly triage cases and forensic assessment to ensure that the psychologically split state of mind in a child is recognised, flagged and NOT depended upon for decisions going forward.  Moving Upstream is about helping families at the earliest point in divorce and separation instead of dragging the bodies out of the water to resuscitate them further down.  Moving Upstream is a strategy which recognises that divorce and separation harms children and that the space in between two newly separated parents is an incredibly problematic space for children of all ages.  Moving Upstream is about the reform of family services away from feminist thinking and towards therapeutic assistance which truly helps children to negotiate the painful landscape of divorce and separation.

Moving Upstream to Address the Problem of Parental Alienation in Europe is the start of a new phase of work with children of divorce and separation and it begins by regulating the work of all practitioners in this field. As we regulate the space we protect parents and children and also practitioners who do this work. As we protect practitioners, more will come to do this work which means that the stranglehold that blinkered family services have on vulnerable families will be diminished.  With recognised standards of practice in place, no family will have to suffer at the hands of untrained and unaware practitioners. In the future, anyone whose child is rejecting or resisting contact, will have access to the assessments which differentiate parental alienation and to treatment routes which are shown to work.

Moving Upstream matters because prevention is far better than cure in parental alienation and the evidence which is emerging from young people, of the damage that parental alienation does underscores this tenfold.  One day very soon, the children whose wishes and feelings were upheld by the family court, will be standing in court asking for damages for the harm done to them.  And with the evidence they hold about what could and should have been done but wasn’t and the evidence that those who could and should have done something didn’t, this is a generation of children who will help to prevent damage being done to the children coming after them.

As one such young person said to me last week –

 ‘how could anyone rely on a word I said back then? I was scared, I was terrified in fact and I just wanted it all to stop – so much so that I would have said anything about my dad to make it stop. I thought they were going to help me but all they did was write down what I said and then they told my dad.  I was so ashamed because I realised how much I had hurt him. I was so ashamed and scared that I never saw him again, which of course made my mum really happy.  I have had to live with that for nearly fifteen years now.  How could they do that to a child?’


When the evidence has been in existence for all of the time these children were growing up but it was ignored in favour of burdening children with the responsibility.

How could they do that to a child?

EAPAP Conference 2018

The EAPAP Conference 2018 opens a new phase of work with children of divorce and separation in Europe by regulating the space in which this work is done and by introducing training, accreditation and awareness raising across Europe.

The EAPAP Conference launches internationally recognised standards of practice with children of divorce and separation and particularly parental alienation.

Buy tickets here

Parent Panel tickets are almost sold out – to get yours you must email us now at office@eapap.eu

Live Streaming of this event is being finalised during the coming week – to register for your live streaming ticket please email us at office@eapap.eu – registration costs £65 and gives access to all of the key events in the two day programme.



15 thoughts on “Why Moving Upstream to Prevent Parental Alienation Matters”

  1. It’s not only mothers who cause the issue’s, it becomes a family affair. I have personal experience of an aunt, who did all she could go take over the child, I could add more but not on this page.

    What happens now the damage is done? At the time, the attitude was one foot in the door, I had to back down to be allowed the access.

    A long way to go before the problems are righted!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I could be a part of this conference. The courts allowing these children to make adult decisions is something I never believed until it happened to me. The term “psychologically split” is one I’ve not heard but it is perfect for what my son is going through. My son had a bright path ahead of him. One ruling by a judge and my son’s future was taken. What does my angry, emotional, manipulative 14 year old know about which parent can raise him better?

    Thank you for all your work and information about parental alienation.


  3. Adultfication is child abuse. Children should not be burdened with this huge responsibility of being adults far before they are emotionally mature enough to take on and, more importantly, know the consequences of that responsibility.

    All the adults involved in making this happen and colluding year on year just displays a frightening realisation to me that is they are also adult children who are also not emotionally mature enough.

    I would like to think it’s simply naivety but I’m also not naive enough to assume there are probably elements of perfectionism, grandiosity in (always being right) and selfishness (greed).

    Either way, it is wrong. It’s time we, as adults take on that very responsibility and stop this lie, and the abuse. It is not just the children but multiple whole families that are needlessly affected!


  4. I remember my own adolescent children. My son, knew everything about nothing.
    Several years later, he blamed me for allowing him to smoke. I tried to stop him every way I could.
    The same with relationships, I’ve tried, even when he allowed his child to leave the country without the correct permission. I tried.
    I’m not going to say I told you so, even though I have had the blame for most things.
    Decisions come with practice, hard to explain to a teenager the rights and wrongs of how they treat their parents. Not all teenagers are that difficult, but they can be.


  5. A man in his early twenties I spoke to said to me: “I was asked to “choose” which parent I wanted to live with, but I was too young and didn’t understand. I made the wrong choice” the result was estrangement from the father he rejected and later from his mother when she rejected him. When I spoke to him he had re-established some contact with his dad but felt nothing but anger for his mum. Another equally damaging split state even if she did deserve his anger.


  6. “Parental Alienation Study Group, the worldwide group of experts who are researching this issue”

    I would love to learn, what constitutes an “expert” , and how does one go about joining such a study group.

    With gratitude and best wishes


      1. Not sure if the case in Vienna of Beth Alexander and her twins, was ever resolved. A husband who has given it his all not back down on his ideas.

        My own situation was never helped, a child now 17 years has lost years of family bonding. I became ill, and have not seen my grandchild for nearly three years.

        This is point of the argument, some will never see family members because we aren’t on this planet for ever!

        The above, just shows the need to support families, at difficult times making sure that the lives of these children, and left behind parents are fair and just!


  7. Mourning the loss of my living child each and every day. No contact approaching 5 years. He’s off to uni in September, praying for a light bulb moment.

    Surviving the daily fallout of emotional psychological turmoil of remaining 15 year olds anger and aggression that can see the mind games involved by the perpetrator. The thumb screws have tightened as eldest is “escaping” so the game to entrap the youngest is heightened.

    We are a broken family failed by the system. “Gillick Competence” used when eldest was in a brain washed fog at age 13!

    Any help and advice gratefully received.
    Karen your work is ground breaking, alas affordability prevents access to it.

    I think PA awareness should be embedded into Gov PREVENT compulsory training as so many similarities.

    Thank you for your time in reading this.


    1. if only we could get the government to fund it – sadly – CAFCASS are not attending our conference – whilst the government are!! Here is the problem we face – people who could help – won’t.

      If you email office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk I will advise as best I can. K


  8. Accreditation is a scary practce.the process creates gatekeepers w vested interests who end up arbitrarily excluding people from training based on level of education or work experience when it would greatly benefit the solution of this problem to have anyone who wants accreditation to get it.


  9. The focus on the mother as the alienator needs to be removed. Both mothers and fathers, custodial and non custodial, and their extended families such as grandparents, aunts and uncles do and are capable of practicing parental alienation. It’s not even relevant who is more likely to do it. That it is being done by ANY of these people is concerning and protecting children and families from this abuse must immediately start to include both parents and extended families in the conversation.
    My children lived with me. I am the targeted parent. I am the mother. Their father’s parents moved in two blocks away from me and fed my children the narrative that they needed to be protected from me. These people undermined my parenting and actively encouraged my children to disrespect me. They enabled my children where I worked to teach them independence and responsibility. My children are both young adults now. One failed out of college and cannot hold onto a minimum wage job. The other barely graduated high school and he too cannot keep a minimum wage job. Both have moved in with these people who enable them, refuse to set boundaries or expectations, continue to attack my character and normal parameters of parenting, and have stolen their souls. Start including all of those culpable in the conversation.


  10. Each case is different, it gets resolved differently.

    I find the way that to generalise the situation, is the only understanding some have.

    In the beginning I was advised things like one foot in the door, I played victim. The situation was controlled, but why should this control be allowed? I’m allowed to say why? No one should have to play victim. I learnt to placate, I think that’s the right word.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s