Child alienation

A serious problem following separation or divorce occurs when a child harshly disparages or vehemently rejects contact with a parent. This behavior pattern has been labeled parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome (PAS); although, contemporary child custody examiners prefer the term child alienation. When a child is alienated from a parent it causes understandable concern; however, divorced parents often disagree about the basis for their child’s negative, polarized attitude. When child alienation becomes extreme the family may be referred for an evaluation to determine the origin of this problem and to identify appropriate interventions. Child alienation typically involves multiple influences and correctly identifying each one is crucial to formulating a plan to repair the damaged parent-child relationship and to support a child’s post-divorce adjustment.

A major aspect of Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed’s child custody practice involves evaluating families in which a child is alienated from a parent. He is highly skilled at identifying the sources of a child’s negative attitude and distinguishing genuine alienation from realistic estrangement. His comprehensive evaluations examine many factors including the basis for a child’s rejection of a parent, the rejected parent’s reactions and personality, and the other parent’s beliefs and behaviors. Judges, attorneys, and parents find his reports useful because recommendations are clearly specified and practical, and can be easily implemented and monitored for compliance.


Indications of child alienation include the following:

  • Child strenuously resists or refuses contact with parent
  • Child rejects a parent without guilt or ambivalence
  • Child harbors an extremely negative, polarized view of a parent
  • Child exaggerates minor parental flaws into serious personality shortcomings
  • Child denies or refuses to acknowledge positive aspects of relationship with parent
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