‘I DID NOT SEE MY DAUGHTERS FOR YEARS:’ THE IMPACT OF COERCIVE CONTROL ON POST-DIVORCE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MOTHERS AND CHILDREN – Dr Sietska Dijkstra

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

I DID NOT SEE MY DAUGHTERS FOR YEARS:’ THE IMPACT OF COERCIVE CONTROL ON POST-DIVORCE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MOTHERS AND CHILDREN

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)….

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4 comments

  1. Who do I talk to, to tell my story?
    I am a mother that has been alienated from my girls for seven years now. The girls ages were 12 & 16 years of age. I have not spoken to them in almost 5 years. Is there any hope? Their dad said he would make sure I never saw my girls again, to his sister. He is a pastor and supposed to to be a caring person..well, that’s the side everyone sees, including my girls.
    I believe, I am texting them regularly if it’s truly their numbers, and I send gifts on birthdays and Christmas’. I never hear a word. I just don’t know what else I can do. My youngest from the beginning of the divorce went into a shell.. wouldn’t take off her stocking cap unless forced for months. They are 19 & 22 now. They seem good On the service and in pictures I see but when I read these blogs and articles, it really concerns me that they are not emotionally as healthy and the splitting has done damage to their minds. Both adults now. My heart hurts for them and us.

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    1. I too hadn’t see my daughter or son for over 5-6 years (daughter was 12 and son 18). I continued to gift presents at Christmas and on Birthdays. Tp help me, I had a little ritual when I lit a candle and said a prayer. Realising the mistakes I made and floowing these blogs, I wrote my daughter a letter just between us (I’m happy to share if you email me Dtarnz@gmail) and sent my son a congradulations card at the same time, on his graduation (I found out on facebook – asimple message of Iknow our relationship isnt where we want it to be, but congradulations, I’m so proud of you Love Mum xx. He messaged me to thank me and several months later called me and we did a small abount of reparation – It came out he was plagued with guilt and shame at the way he had treated me and thinks wernt going so well with his father (I kept my fury with his father at bay). he may contact me and I dont hear from hin for a couple of months… A few months ago my daughter (now 19) breifly turned up at my birthday lunch. we met for coffee a couple of days later and she is very sick. For the past 3 years has had anorexia and eluded to my son experimenting with “P”. She was not the spirited, out spoken, little girl who stormed out my door several years ago…Instead a frail, fragile, pale thin individual stood before me who, despite putting on a happy face, has metal health issues. Clearly she was the mouth peice for her father and paternal grandmother and under huge pressure to keep away from me. It seemed she was caught up in a trance… we communicated by messenger and although agreed we both should have counselling ( PAS is unrecognised in NZ which aided the aliention) has now blocked me, I’m beside myself and concern she will suicide. I understand the splitting and unconscious dynamics – wspecially around the guilt and shame, I’m not sure what to do, however relieved every morning I wake up and assuming she is above ground level, havent got the call yet. I going to approach a family friend (my ex husbands brother in law) as he understaood the intergeneration attachment dysfunction and my ex husband will listen to him. The other step is I intend to move out of Auckland – give her some space so she doesnt feel the pressure to see me. I also hoping she will move out of his house. while she is there nothing will move forward.
      For me I focus on myself, take everyday as it comes and use this blog to nurture myself – particularly in keeping healthy supporting people in my life. (I have had to terminate my relationship with an older sister – to protect my daughter from her aggression as she became a threat to her (wanting to let her “have it) – and in terminating the relationship, making my stand was very empowering.

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  2. My heart goes out to ALL parents and children who are alienated from each other because of a corrupt system and vengeful ex. I’m totally banned from referring to my alienated children by name, gender or age. This ban includes mentioning their names in public or email or sm. I also have a 50mtr exclusion zone against me. I’m not allowed to smile, look, nod, wave or make any form of gesture to my children..I don’t know if you have been a metre away from your child and you are have to ignore your child..let me tell you it’s destructive, heartbreaking, traumatic and soulless. What system can implement such child abuse and mental abuse on a child. The name ban etc also encompasses their other siblings, extending family members, freinds and politicians..You may ask have I committed some horrific crime towards my alienated children..I have.I am guilty in the family court of being a FATHER. Yes. That’s my crime..In my jurisdiction 9,999 out of every FATHER who fight to see their child/children are permanently erased from their child/children’s lives.

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