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Parental Alienation and Children Exhibiting Visitation Refusal Behaviour

There are multiple explanations for parental rejection in separated and divorcing
families. In this dynamic, children and the parents they reject often struggle over
a declining relationship and dissipating contact.
Frequently the child’s parental rejection is mirrored in their pertinacious, visitation refusal behaviour and in extreme cases of parental rejection children have
been known to terminate all contact on a permanent basis (Turkat ).
Management of Visitation Interference, Ira Daniel Turkat, Ph.D., The Judges Journal, Number 36 p.17-47,
Spring, 1997

In a Canadian legal study exploring parental rejection between 1987– 2009, a
correlation was found between gender bias and visitation resistance. (Coleman)
Trends Analysis, Gene C. Colman, 2009 CSPAS conference, Metro Toronto Convention Center.
This study examined 74 cases and found fathers to be biased as rejected parents
by a statistic of 62%. Another similar, clinical study during 1985–2001 (which
included 99 cases ), found no bias at all. The gender ratio was closer to 50 – 50.
(Gardner ).

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS ):Sixteen Years Later, Richard A. Gardner, M.D. Published in
The Academy Forum , 2001, 45(1): 10-12 A Publication of The American Academy of Psychoanalysis.
Based upon the social science literature it is far more accurate to conclude that
both genders share the same degree of high risk in being rejected by their children,
and although there is still a substantial amount of public discordance over the
issue of gender bias in the courts, the clinical data supports the fact that mother’s
and father’s report the loss of child relationships in fairly equal proportion.
There are more than five hundred thousand children every year in divorced and
separated families who have parents polarized by the issue of custody, and be –
cause of this conflict, many children are psychologically divided by behaviours
that have three stages of adjustment. These stages are referred to as : Visitation
Resistance, Visitation Pleasure and Visitation Confliction.

The First Stage – Visitation Resistance
This pattern of behaviour is acute during pick up and drop off times, but can also
be observed during telephonic visitation. The first stage begins when custody is
transferred to the rejected parent. This transfer catalyzes the child’s protestations
and visitation refusal behaviour and every objection is goal oriented to remain in
the custody of the aligned parent. Objections may also vary between verbal, and
physical acts of resistance and the resistance might be mild, moderate or extreme.

The Second Stage – Visitation Pleasure.
After the child is transferred over to the custody of the rejected parent (far from
the influence of the aligned parent ), the child demonstrates a favourable attitude
about visitation, and a general reversal in animosities towards the rejected parent.
During this stage the child enjoys bonding with the maligned parent. They
engage in activities and cooperate, they show respect and at times express love
and affection for the parent.

The Third Stage –Visitation Confliction
Shortly after the child is returned to the custody of the aligned parent, the loyalty
testing begins. Many aligned parents look upon the child’s visitation pleasure as
an act of betrayal and this perceived betrayal triggers a repercussion for the child.
In this reverse pattern of rejection (rejection directed at the child), repercussions
may vary. The aligned parent may resort to threats of abandonment, a suspension
or cancellation of activities, the silent treatment, criticisms comparing them to the
non-favoured parent, and acts of verbal or physical abuse.

As soon as the child learns the connection between visitation pleasure and how it
elicits anger and rejection, they realize the need to shunt or eliminate any display
of those feelings in front of the aligned parent and in doing so the child learns how
to escape negative consequences.
Not all children reach this stage of visitation confliction. Many children never get
the time or the opportunity to experience the stage of visitation pleasure, and also
a large number of young children do not have the cognitive development to gain
an understanding of this linkage and the insight to adjust their behaviour.
This third stage called visitation confliction begins just prior to the child’s transfer
back to the aligned parent. During this third and final stage, normally hours before
returning home, the child undergoes a dramatic switch in mood, he or she may act
despondent, upset, anxious or withdrawn, and not because of any negative inter action with the rejected parent, rather because it is symptomatic of the child’s great
confliction in returning home. These stages of behaviour have also been referred to
as “splitting.”

(Waldron, Joanis ). Understanding and Collaboratively Treating Parental Alienation
Syndrome Kenneth H.Waldron, Ph.D and David E. Joanis, JD, American Journal of Family Law, Vol 10, 121- 133 (1996).

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Joseph Goldberg

Joseph Goldberg graduated from BCC, Palm Beach County, FL and went on to do undergraduate studies at Florida International University, where he majored in Psychology. He has sponsored the Safe Child Program at Pine Crest Preparatory School in Boca Raton FL. He is the Founder of The Canadian Symposium for… MORE >

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