Dr Dijkstra is a Board member of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners. She will be presenting at the third conference of EAPAP in September.

Dr. Sietske Dijkstra is a specialist in violence within relationships. She offers research, education and advice to professionals, practitioners, managers and policy makers in many welfare, social and juridical sectors and educational organisations.

Dr Dijkstra’s article here, is concerned with intimate partner violence and alienation of mothers from their children. Mirroring the clinical experience of those of us who do this work, it is apparent that alienation of children is caused by fathers as well as mothers. Intervening to assist mothers and their children is something which is undertaken regularly in the UK and around the world. Interventions show that fathers mainly cause an alienation response in their children using strategies which are recognised as overt coercive control. Whilst mothers influence children using more covert strategies.

In consideration of the issue of family violence in post separation family life, it is vital to pull apart the different strands of influence upon the child to understand how a child comes to use the defence of psychological splitting. This defence, from which all of the behavioural signs of alienation arise, is one which causes a child to hyper align with one parent and completely reject the other. It is this presentation which denotes alienation in a child and it is this which is the cause of all of the defensive responses in the family around the child which cause the deep crises which are seen in the family courts.

Intervening before the child enters into a fixed defensive position is vital to prevent the escalation of the dynamics but it is not always possible to do so. This leads to the dynamics in which the family affected by a child’s defensive splitting, enters itself into a splitting, mirroring the child’s original split and losing sight of how that was originally caused. Often by the time the family court is involved, the obfuscation of the cause of the split is complete, meaning that there is then the need to enter into a campaign on each side of the child to ‘prove’ that the other side caused this. The lengths of time that parents then spend attempting to prove and disprove that the other parent caused this are quite simply frightening. The amounts of money spent in doing so are eye watering.

The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners brings together clinicians from all over the world to consider the ways in which families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting in divorce and separation can be helped through education and support as well as interventions. Bringing together some of the most experienced clinicians in the world, this conference is designed to educate, support and improve professional understanding of the problem of a child’s hyper alignment and rejection of parents after divorce and separation. With a keynote presentation from Jill Salberg, PhD, ABPP, Associate Professor of Psychology, faculty member and clinical supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, who will present a paper titled The shadow of our ghosts: Generations of ruptures.

Book here for the EAPAP Conference


Intimate partner violence and ex-partner violence can have many different faces and be played out by turning the children against the former spouse, thus a form of emotional child abuse. In this article (1) with the title above, I was reflecting on these issues based on in-depth interviews and a focus group I held with fathers, focusing my attention especially on the rejected mothers (2) I met in and through my work. The paper was originally presented at the second European Conference on Domestic Violence held in September 2017 in Porto, written up for the E-book in March 2018 and published in August 2019 as an E-Book. As a domestic violence specialist (3) I am involved in discussions on issues on relational and social safety and disruption in family relationships. Last decade I developed accredited courses for social professionals on child abuse and vulnerable family relationships, intergenerational trauma, complex divorce parental alienation. (4)….

Read the rest of the article here