Crackdown on parental alienation could do more harm than good | Letters

As early as 2001, American researchers warned that too often in divorce situations, all children resisting contact were being labelled ‘alienated’ and their parents as abusive, writes Jane FortinThe Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’s new guidance on “parental alienation” (Parents at war could risk losing children, 18 November) is worrying. Cafcass justifies its “groundbreaking” approach by a significant rise in alienation cases, with 11%-15% of children of divorcing parents being turned against their non-resident parents – a process that can profoundly damage the child.

Parental alienation is undeniably damaging, especially in its more extreme form. Nevertheless, as early as 2001, American researchers were warning that too often in divorce situations, all children resisting contact were being labelled “alienated” and their parents as abusive and “alienating parents”. More recent research (Fortin, Hunt and Scanlon, 2012: Taking a longer view of contact: The perspectives of young adults who experienced parental separation in their youth) suggests that it is a mistake to assume that a child’s reluctance to have contact with the non-resident parent is simply due to brainwashing by the resident parent. Our evidence suggests that even relatively young children may have very clear reasons of their own for resistance to contact.

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