Relational and psychological features of high-conflict couples who engage in parental alienation

Author/s Maria Cristina Verrocchio, Daniela Marchetti, Paolo Roma, Stefano Ferracuti
Publishing Year 2019 Issue 2018/4
Language Italian Pages 14 P. 679-692 File size 189 KB
DOI 10.3280/RIP2018-004008
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

Parental alienation (PA) is a family dynamic in which a parent engages in be-haviors that are likely to foster a child’s unjustified rejection of the other parent. The developmental mechanism of PA has been explained with hypotheses that range from specific behaviors of one parent to an interaction of many factors including behaviors of both parents, personality predisposition of family mem-bers, parenting and parent-child relationship patterns, environmental and social factors. The present study was carried out to further contribute to the knowledge about psychological features of parents and other significant factors associated with PA in child custody cases. METHODOLOGY: The sample consisted of 160 family units. Information about participants was collected by professionals sur-veyed about their reports provided to the court in cases of separation-divorce, where a child clearly rejected one of the parents. In this study we consider par-ents’ psychological characteristics and psychopathology, attitudes and behaviors towards the offspring, and quality of the relationship between parents and their family of origin. RESULTS: The preferred parent generally puts discrediting or denigrating attitudes towards the other parent. The reactions from the preferred parent are mainly constituted by a passive acceptance of rejection without any opposition. The psychological profile of preferred and refused parents is marked by significant differences. In a high number of cases, the family of origin sup-ports the hostility of their son to the other parent. CONCLUSIONS: More knowledge about parents psychological features and other risk factors re-lated to PA may be of value for mental health professionals to assess these fami-lies. Moreover, understanding the key characteristics of families involved in PA dynamics could contribute to prevent this phenomenon and improve tailor-made interventions.

Keywords: High-conflict couples, parental alienation, preferred parent, target-ed parent.

  1. Stoltz, J.A.M., & Ney, T. (2002). Resistance to visitation: Rethinking parental and child alienation. Family Court Review, 40(2), 220-231.
  2. Turkat, I.D. (1999). Divorce-related malicious parent syndrome. Journal of Family Violence, 14, 95-97.
  3. Amato, P.R., & Afifi, T.D. (2006). Feeling caught between parents: Adult children’s relations with parents and subjective well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 222-235.
  4. Baker, A.J.L. (2010). Figli divisi: storie di manipolazione emotiva dei genitori nei confronti dei figli. Firenze: Giunti.
  5. Baker, A.J.L., & Fine, P. (2014). Surviving parental alienation. A Journey of hope and dealing. Lahnam, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc.
  6. Ben-Ami, N., & Baker, A.J.L. (2012). The long-term correlates of childhood exposure to parental alienation on adult self-sufficiency and well-being. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 40(2), 169-183. DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2011.601206
  7. Bernet, W., Baker, A.J.L., & Verrocchio, M.C. (2015). Symptom Checklist-90-Revised scores in adult children exposed to alienating behaviors: an Italian sample. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 60(2), 357-362. DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12681
  8. Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., & Di Blasio, P. (2016). Conflittualità genitoriale e sintomatologia da stress post-traumatico nei figli: Uno studio esplorativo. Maltrattamento e Abuso all’Infanzia, 18, 139-149. DOI: 10.3280/MAL2016-002008
  9. Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., Di Blasio, P., & Grych, J. (2017). Children’s coping strategies to inter-parental conflict: The moderating role of attachment. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 1099-1111.
  10. Dunne, J., & Hedrick, M. (1994). The parental alienation syndrome: An analysis of sixteen selected cases. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 21(3-4), 21-38.
  11. Fidler, B.J., Bala, N., & Saini, M.A. (2012). Children who resist post separation parental contact: A differential approach for legal and mental health professionals. Oxford University Press.
  12. Gardner, R.A. (2003). The judiciary’s role in the etiology, symptom development, and treatment of the parental alienation syndrome (PAS). American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 21(1), 39-64.
  13. Gennari, M., & Tamanza, G. (2017). Parental alienation (PAS) and Child Custody Evaluation: Clinical suggestions from some cases’ analysis [Alienazione Genitoriale (PAS) e procedimenti di Consulenza Tecnica d’Ufficio: Evidenze cliniche dall’analisi di alcune valutazioni]. Maltrattamento e Abuso all’Infanzia, 1, 13-27. DOI: 10.3280/MAL2017-001002
  14. Gordon, R.M., Stoffey, R., & Bottinelli, J. (2008). MMPI-2 findings of primitive defenses in alienating parents. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 36(3), 211-228. DOI: 10.1080/01926180701643313
  15. Grych, J.H., & Fincham, F.D. (Eds.) (2001). Interparental conflict and child development: Theory, research and applications. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  16. Harman, J.J., Biringen, Z., Ratajack, E.M., Outland, P.L., & Kraus, A. (2016). Parents behaving badly : gender biases in the perception of parental alienating behaviors. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(7), 866-874.
  17. Johnston, J.R., & Goldman, J.R. (2010). Outcomes of family counseling interventions with children who resist visitation: an addendum to Friedlander and Walters (2010). Family Court Review, 48, 112-115.
  18. Johnston, J.R., Roseby, V., & Kuehnle, K. (2009). In the name of the child: A developmental approach to understanding and helping children of conflicted and violent divorce. New York, NY: Springer.
  19. Johnston, J.R., Walters, M.G., & Olesen, N.W. (2005). The psychological functioning of alienated children in custody disputing families: An exploratory study. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 23, 3, 39-64.
  20. Kelly, J., & Johnston, J. (2001). The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39, 249-267.
  21. Lampel, A.K. (1996). Children’s alignment with parents in highly conflicted custody cases. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 34, 229-239.
  22. Lubrano Lavadera, A., Ferracuti, S., & Togliatti, M.M. (2012). Parental Alienation Syndrome in Italian legal judgments: An exploratory study. International journal of law and psychiatry, 35(4), 334-342.
  23. Molgora, S., Fusar Poli, C., Marzotto, C., & Tamanza, G. (2017). Putting Words to the Experience: An Italian Group Intervention for Children of Separated Parentes, Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 58(2), 134-144.  DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2016.1268025
  24. Poustie, C., Matthewson, M., & Balmer, S. (2018). The Forgotten Parent: The Targeted Parent Perspective of Parental Alienation. Journal of Family Issues,  39(12), 3298-3323. DOI: 10.1177/0192513X18777867
  25. Rand, D. (1997a). The spectrum of parental alienation syndrome, Part I. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 15(3), 23-52.
  26. Rand, D. (1997b). The spectrum of parental alienation syndrome, Part II. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 15(4), 39-92.
  27. Ranieri, S., Molgora S., Tamanza, G., & Emery, R.E. (2016), Promoting Coparenting After Divorce: A Relational Perspective on Child Custody Evaluations in Italy, Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 57(5), 361-373.  DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2016.1185204
  28. Saini, M., Johnston, J. R., Fidler B. J., & Bala, N. (2016). Empirical Studies of Alienation. In: Drozd L., Saini M., & Olesen N., editors, Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  29. Siegel, J.C., & Langford, J.S. (1998). MMPI-2 validity scales and suspected parental alienation syndrome. American Journal Of Forensic Psychology, 16 (4), 5-14.
  30. Verrocchio, M.C., & Baker, A.J.L. (2015). Italian adults’ recall of childhood exposure to parental loyalty conflicts. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 95-105.
  31. Verrocchio, M.C., Baker, A.J.L., & Bernet, W. (2016). Associations between exposure to alienating behaviors, anxiety, and depression in an Italian sample of adults, Journal of Forensic Sciences, 61(3), 692-698. DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.13046
  32. Verrocchio, M.C., Baker, A.J.L., & Marchetti, D. (2017). Adult Report of Childhood Exposure to Parental Alienation at Different Developmental Time Periods. Journal of Family Therapy. DOI: 10.1111/1467-6427.12192
  33. Verrocchio, M.C., & Marchetti, D. (2017). L’intervento nei casi di alienazione genitoriale: una revisione sistematica della letteratura [Intervention in cases of parental alienation: A systematic review of the literature]. Maltrattamento e abuso all’infanzia, 19(1), 67-83. DOI: 10.3280/MAL2017-001005
  34. Verrocchio, M.C., Marchetti, D., & Fulcheri, M. (2015). Perceived parental functioning, self-esteem, and psychological distress in adults whose parents are separated/divorced. Frontiers in Psychology, 6,1760.
  35. Warshak, R.A. (2010). Alienating audiences from innovation: The perils of polemics, ideology, and innuendo. Family Court Review, 48(1) 153-163.
  36. Whitcombe, S. (2017). Powerless to parent; powerless to protect: The experiences of alienated parents in the UK. Maltrattamento e abuso all’infanzia, 19, 47-66. DOI: 10.3280/MAL2017-001004

  • MMPI-2 Profiles of Mothers Engaged in Parental Alienation Paolo Roma, Daniela Marchetti, Cristina Mazza, Franco Burla, Maria Cristina Verrocchio, in Journal of Family Issues /2021 pp.722
    DOI: 10.1177/0192513X20918393
  • A Comparison of MMPI-2 Profiles Between Parental Alienation Cases and Custody Cases Paolo Roma, Daniela Marchetti, Cristina Mazza, Eleonora Ricci, Lilybeth Fontanesi, Maria Cristina Verrocchio, in Journal of Child and Family Studies /2022 pp.1196
    DOI: 10.1007/s10826-021-02076-1

Maria Cristina Verrocchio, Daniela Marchetti, Paolo Roma, Stefano Ferracuti, Caratteristiche psicologiche e relazionali in coppie altamente conflittuali coinvolte nell’alienazione genitoriale in "RICERCHE DI PSICOLOGIA " 4/2018, pp 679-692, DOI: 10.3280/RIP2018-004008