Empathy and Parental Alienation

“AB-PA is a trauma pathology from child abuse that occurred one (and two) generations earlier and is still rippling through the family.

The parent of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent was abused as a child (most likely sexual abuse). When this abused child became a parent, the childhood trauma was passed on to the next generation (to the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child) through the creation of a “disorganized attachment” with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child. This trauma is now being extended into the next generation through the false trauma reenactment narrative being created by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in the trauma pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent.”

Does a true trauma narrative of an abusive parent, a victimized child, and a protective parent also exist in families? Absolutely. Dogs exist. Authentic child abuse exists. I’ve seen it up close and personal during my work in the foster care system.

And the trans-generational transmission of trauma also exists. Cats exist.

Our goal is to protect 100% of children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse, physical, sexual, and psychological.

Both the active trauma of child abuse and the multi-generational ripple of child abuse will carry the same “meme-structures” – the same trauma themes – so it can sometimes be complex to unravel whether the family pathology is a manifestation of current trauma or past trauma that is still rippling through the family in the form of parental personality disorder pathology.

But that’s the profession of clinical psychology. That’s our job, to know this. I am a clinical psychologist. It’s my job to know this.

That’s why I worked out in detail the pathology of the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma which I describe in my book Foundations. And based on a deep understanding for this specific form of trans-generational transmission of child abuse trauma, I was able to identify three key features in the child’s symptom display that will reliably – 100% of the time – differentiate authentic child abuse occurring today from the echo of child abuse that occurred a generation or two ago but that is continuing to ripple through the family by distorting the current child’s attachment bonding motivations toward a loving and normal-range parent.

This pathology is complex, and differentiating it from current trauma is vitally important. That’s why children and families displaying this form of attachment-related pathology should receive the professional designation as a “special population” who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.”

Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based "Parental Alienation" (AB-PA)

Of all the symptoms displayed by the child, the absence of empathy is the most disturbing. The absence of empathy is associated with the capacity for human cruelty

Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. New York: Basic Books.

There are only three disorders that display as a characteristic symptom feature an absence of empathy; autism, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder (the psychopath).

So when we see a child display an absence of empathy – a cavalierly unfeeling capacity to be cruel – this is an extremely concerning symptom.

Empathy represents a set of brain networks that have their foundation in a group of brain cells called “mirror neurons.” There is a wonderful PBS Nova program on mirror neurons up on the Internet:

Nova Mirror Neurons

These mirror neurons serve as the foundation for a brain system called “intersubjectivity” – what…

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