When child abuse looks like love: protecting children from psychological and emotional harm

“The red flag of alienation is the child’s defensive splitting behaviours. When a child outright rejects and that is accompanied by hyper alignment, particularly with disdain from the child about the rejected parent, alienation of the child’s own self from the self is likely. Evidence of the child’s inauthenticity can be heard in their language patterns and rigid behavioural displays. The child who is in this situation is potentially being seriously harmed because they are often beyond parental control, having been given the decision making power by the aligned parent and the other parent has been pushed to the absolute margins of the child’s life. It is being beyond parental control which takes the level of harm to the Welfare Threshold in the UK and fortunately, with more professionals in social work and the psychological therapies, becoming aware of the risk of harm to a child in this position, better outcomes for children are being seen.”

Karen Woodall

The task to demonstrate that a child who is rejecting a parent outright is displaying symptoms of hyper-alignment with the parent they are clinging to, continues. This parent is often referred to by campaigners as the protective parent, when in reality they are anything but protective. The problem for many professionals and, for the outside world in general, is that until the reality of the psychological and emotional abuse which underpins alienation is properly articulated and recognised, this abuse, which looks like love, will continue.

What do we mean by abuse which looks like love? What we mean is that to the outside world, the child is strongly aligned to one parent and outright rejecting the other. This behavioural display is, in itself, the first red flag that tell us that something is wrong because children who do not have a relationship with a parent, children who are afraid of…

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